With time growing short for the North Carolina General Assembly to include a film incentive package in the state’s fiscal year 2014-15 budget, Representative Susi Hamilton, D-Brunswick and New Hanover, and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo called a press conference in Raleigh, Wednesday, June 25.
Saffo and Hamilton called for a one-year extension of the current film incentive program to give time for the completion of an independent study by the NCGA Program Evaluation Division.
The program evaluation is a non-partisan division within the general assembly that evaluates whether public services are delivered in an effective and efficient manner and in accordance with the law.
Saffo said he supported the study completed by North Carolina State University professor Robert Handfield, which concluded the state receives a $9.11 return on every $1 of film incentive credits issued, adding the chance for a non-partisan study would set the record straight.
“Some people didn’t agree with [Handfield’s study] but it would at least give us the opportunity to evaluate this industry,” Saffo said. “The incentive game, whether you like it or not … if we are not in it we are not going to recruit business and industry to our state.”
Representative Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, who has introduced a bill that would continue the current film incentives for one year and call for the non-partisan study, said the problem many of his fellow Republicans had with Handfield’s study was that it was funded by the Motion Picture Association of America.
“It is not that the study was false, but any time one side pays for something the other side will point to that,” Davis said. “We need to have an independent study that isn’t paid by one side or the other so that no one can attack it for that reason.”
Representative Hamilton said another full year of film incentives would be required to accurately complete the study.
When it comes time for the final 2014-15 state budget to be finalized, Davis said he was confident film incentives would be included.
“I am very confident something is going to be done, I honestly don’t believe in my heart of hearts that this General Assembly is going to let the film incentives die,” Davis said. “I may be chasing windmills and Don Quixote but I am an optimist and I have been fighting this thing too long to take a negative view of it.”
In addition to touting Davis’ bill and the current film incentive program, Hamilton and Saffo also used the time to invite North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to tour the sets of Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow,” CBS’s “Under the Dome,” Cinemax’s “Banshee” and ABC’s “Secrets and Lies,” all of which are currently in production in Wilmington.