NJ may give $75M in tax breaks to spark more film production
There could soon be more incentive for filmmakers and television producers to shoot their projects in the Garden State.
Already approved by the full Senate and up for a vote Thursday by the full Assembly is a measure that would reintroduce tax credits aimed at incentivizing media production within New Jersey's borders.
The Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act awards tax credits up to 35 percent — depending on where in the state production occurs — for expenses incurred during the production of films and television programs intended for national distribution.
"We now have an opportunity to bring this industry back, or at least try to, through this tax incentive," said bill sponsor Assemblyman Gordon Johnson.
While New Jersey offers productions an exemption from the state sales tax, a tax-credit program has been nonexistent since 2010 when then-Gov. Chris Christie suspended the incentive.
At the time, New Jersey offered credits up to $10 million per year for films and $2 million annually for digital media. The bill under consideration ups the ante to $75 million per year for film production expenses and $10 million for digital media content.
"We have to recognize that we're in competition with neighboring states ... when it comes to film production and television shows," Johnson said.
Christie vetoed efforts in 2016 to renew the tax incentives.
Johnson said he was motivated to look at this issue upon learning several years ago that HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," based on Prohibition-era Atlantic City, would be filming in New York.
Johnson said in-state film production also helps businesses in the area of film shoots — the cast and crew need catering, and set designers need the local hardware store, for example.
Steven Gorelick, executive director of the New Jersey Motion Picture & Television Commission, said if approved and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, the move would create thousands of jobs in the state — some permanent, some temporary.
Gorelick said New Jersey has lost many feature films and television programs to other states who offer tax credits.
"We have all the other advantages that you could possibly want — we have an incredible array of locations that are available in a very compact geographic area, we have a talent pool second to none," Gorelick said. "The one thing we lack is this financial incentive that will level the playing field and make New Jersey a very fertile area for motion picture and television production."
Qualified film production expenses would be eligible for a tax credit amount equal to 30 percent in most of the state. To sweeten the pot and spur interest in less-demanded areas, a credit of 35 percent would be available for expenses incurred in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer or Salem counties.
The measure sets funding aside through June 2023.