Rep. Antonio Maestas introduced a bill Thursday that would keep in place the state's $50 million annual rebate program for moviemakers and TV producers, but allow unspent portions from one year to carry over to the next.
For instance, if the state paid $40 million in movie and TV subsidies this year, another $10 million would be added to the program for the next year.
Maestas, D-Albuquerque, also proposes in the bill to increase incentives for certain television series that shoot in New Mexico.
As it stands, moviemakers and television series receive a 25 percent rebate from the state on qualified production expenses. It means that a filmmaker who spends $60 million in New Mexico would get a $15 million rebate from the state treasury.
Maestas said TV series such as "Breaking Bad" do more for the state's economy than movies.
So his bill would increase the subsidy to 30 percent for TV productions intended for commercial distribution of at least six episodes, or if they spend at least $500,000 on building, rigging and lighting on at least one set in New Mexico.
Maestas said New Mexico's neighborhoods and majestic landscapes tend to be emphasized more in TV series than movies. That makes TV productions more important than movies in promoting the state, he said.
Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, said earlier this week he also would file a bill to eliminate the $50 million annual cap for movie and television subsidies. He said the restriction was costing the state movies and money.
Maestas said he would support Griego's bill but doubted that Gov. Susana Martinez would.
"The cap's going to remain because it provides stability in the budget," rather than huge payouts to moviemakers that cannot be anticipated," Maestas said.
But, he said, "I hate the cap because it sends the wrong message to the industry."
Moviemakers cooled toward New Mexico in 2011, when the Legislature an Martinez debated the wisdom of the rebate program. She wanted to reduce rebates to 15 percent, but later compromised by endorsing the $50 million yearly cap.
Maestas said movies and TV productions create jobs, tax revenue and opportunities for state residents. Capping the incentives to the industries also limits prosperity, he said.
His proposal to create the rolling cap and higher incentives for TV series is House Bill 379.
Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.