For Immediate Release
To the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal
By Rep. John Picchiotti
The 125th Legislature made great strides toward improving Maine's business climate, drastically reducing regulatory red tape, lowering taxes and getting the state's fiscal house in order. But much more needs to be done.
Maine is missing a golden opportunity, I believe, by not improving conditions to attract film production to our state. Anyone who watches movies knows Maine has been used countless times as a setting for films and television shows. Film production companies that have worked in Maine rave about our beautiful scenery, the cooperation and friendliness of the local population and our commitment to help keep their costs down.
While the success stories are numerous, with productions like "The Preachers Wife," "Message in a Bottle" and "Empire Falls," there are too many movie projects that could have been filmed in Maine but weren't. When producers have a film whose story takes place in Maine, they usually shoot it in Michigan, Vancouver or Canada so they can capitalize on film incentives.
Like every other business, the film industry operates on a limited budget, and where they choose to film often comes down to a cost/benefit analysis. A film producer must show the investor a blueprint for a return on investment (ROI). Shooting a picture in a film-incentive state reduces the risk.
That's why I sponsored LD 384, "An Act to Provide Incentives to Foster Economic Growth and Build Infrastructure in the State." This bill would have provided tax incentives to film producers who shoot their projects to Maine.
In order to qualify, a production company would have to follow strict guidelines related to hiring and training Maine residents, allocate funds for investment in infrastructure and use existing Maine businesses, such as payroll processing, banking and transportation. With this film incentive bill, there would be no expense to Maine taxpayers until after production takes place. Revenue would be generated for the state, however, through employment tax, business tax and other fees.
The bill had overwhelming support in the House and Senate. Unfortunately, it died when it got to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee (AFA), due to inflexible financial strictures for such tax incentives. That's why I plan, if reelected, to present new legislation that will free the hands of the AFA Committee to allow bills like LD 384 to clear the Legislature and reach the Governor's desk.
Film companies that come to Maine have an enormous financial impact on the state. Large-scale productions hire hundreds of workers who rent hotel rooms, eat in restaurants, shop and spend money in countless other ways. The companies also hire local contractors to work on sets, drive trucks and operate machinery. At a time when Maine is trying to prove that it is indeed open for business, we simply cannot afford to let these opportunities pass us by.
Again, significant progress has been made since Maine voters opted for a leadership change in Augusta. One of the first priorities for the new Legislature was scaling back excessive government regulation that business owners from around the state identified as their number one obstacle.
We passed regulatory reform that rolled back layers of needless, redundant red tape. The state also now has a Small Business Advocate to help entrepreneurs navigate the state's regulatory maze. There's been a big drop in the amount of time it takes to get permits issued. Business owners around the state say there has been a noticeable change for the better over the past two years.
The changes are also being noticed nationally. Long considered one of the worst states in which to do business, Maine jumped this year from 40th place to 35th in CNBC's ranking of the best states for business. The state also improved in the categories of work force, quality of life, infrastructure and transportation, education, technology and innovation and business friendliness, going from 31st to 21st.
Unemployment is still far too high, but at 7.2 percent it is well below the national average. The rate dropped in June, which is unusual, analysts say, because that is a time when students and young graduates enter the job market. That usually drives the rate higher.
We have come a long way in a very short time to reverse many of the policies that have held Maine back for decades. Under new leadership, we proved that we could do it in a bipartisan manner, avoiding the gridlock that plagues Washington. ###
Representative John Picchiotti (R-Fairfield) serves on the Legislature's Insurance and Financial Services Committee
Maine House Republicans
Tel: (207) 287-1445