By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham referenced filmmaking in Las Cruces and highlighted the contribution of a Las Cruces lawmaker as she signed a bill Friday, March 29, that more than doubles the cap on rebate payments to qualified film and television productions in New Mexico and provides an additional 5 percent credit for productions that film in Las Cruces or anywhere outside of Albuquerque and Santa Fe.
“This is historic, and we are so excited,” Lujan Grisham said just after she signed the bill at Albuquerque Studios that will raise the cap from $50 million to $110 million.
The bill (Senate Bill 2: Film Tax Credit Changes) also includes an additional 5 percent tax credit for productions that work in Las Cruces and other parts of the state outside Albuquerque and Santa Fe. That provision was proposed by state Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Doña, who is president of the nonprofit Film Las Cruces (FLC).
“We’re celebrating because we pioneered the 5 percent idea,” Steinborn said in a telephone interview. “We started working on it before the session, making a full court press on the administration and legislators. We prevailed. It was the right thing to do.”
FLC, he said, took “a real leadership role organizing film offices around the state” in support of the additional tax credit.
“Las Cruces is positioned to benefit from the new law by being the only community in the higher incentive area with a qualified film production studio facility, Film Las Cruces Studios, as well as having a local film production crew base,” Las Cruces Film Liaison Jon Foley said in an FLC news release. “The additional tax credit boosts New Mexico’s total available film production rebate to 30-35 percent, making it among the most competitive in the country.”
New Mexico is “creating a hub for every kind of production, Lujan Grisham said at the March 29 news conference. “There are production efforts that are available no matter where you live, if you’re in Milan, if you’re in Las Cruces.
“New Mexico’s crew is the best in the country,” she said. “That is something that puts us ahead of every other state. The bricks and motor investment, the incredible landscape, the talent that New Mexicans bring to bear, partnership with New Mexico policymakers. New Mexico can be Number One in any number of areas and film production is exactly that kind of area.”
Lujan Grisham said the state also has repaid about two-thirds of the estimated $382 million backlog in incentive money it owed to filmmakers and will continue to pay it off. It’s important to “demonstrate that priority” to filmmakers, the governor said, that “we’re going to pay our bills, we’re open for business.”
Lujan Grisham said “$3.44 billion has been infused into New Mexico’s economy” since the state’s film tax credit incentive was established in 2003. Lujan Grisham said she thinks that figure is actually low because the state, for at least the past eight years, has not been collecting all the data on film production.
“This is clean, high paying, productive, will last generations,” the governor said.
At the bill signing, the bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Nancy Rodriguez, D-Santa Fe, thanked Steinborn and state Rep. Nathan Small, D-Doña Ana, who “helped us figure out a way to include rural areas,” she said.
Steinborn, Rodriguez said, is “the one who came to me and said, ‘We’d really like support for the rural areas.’”
“Today is a big day for film and television and the industry here in New Mexico,” Rodriguez said. “SB 2 is different because it takes all the wonderful things that have come before and challenges us to take this industry into a new level.”
“This is the best film statute we can create; it is fantastic for the rural communities,” said state Rep. Antonio “Mo” Maestas, D-Bernalillo, who carried the bill in the New Mexico House of Representatives. The bill, he said, “will bring tens of millions of dollars into our economy that will multiply over and over again.”
Mike Cook may be contacted at email@example.com.