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Maryland bill would more than triple film tax credit

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- Given the success of productions recently filmed in Maryland, such as HBO's "Veep" and Netflix's "House of Cards," a legislative panel on Wednesday discussed more than tripling the incentives given to companies that film in the state.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard testimony overwhelmingly in support of a bill to increase the tax credits offered to productions filmed in Maryland from $7.5 million to $25 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Gov. Martin O'Malley included the increase in funding in his fiscal 2014 budget.

The bill also would extend the availability of incentives until June 30, 2016, but the amount would drop back to $7.5 million after fiscal 2014. The credits are set to expire after July 2014.

The legislation would beef up and extend incentives first passed in 2011 to encourage filmmakers to choose Maryland for productions. The credits had fallen to $1 million.

"We had an industry that was on the verge of leaving Maryland, and you have rescued it, resurrected it, put life back into it," Donna S. Edwards, secretary-treasurer of the Maryland and D.C. branch of the AFL-CIO, said of the 2011 law.

Dominick Murray, secretary of Maryland's Department of Business and Economic Development, credits the 2011 laws with bringing the filming of two seasons of "Veep" and one season of "House of Cards" to Maryland.

While the opening credits of "House of Cards" -- a political drama set in D.C. -- show shots of Bloomingdale rowhouses, the Anacostia River and Nationals Park, more than 90 percent of the show is filmed in Baltimore and on a soundstage in Harford County.

Murray said those two shows alone resulted in the hiring of more than 5,700 Marylanders for cast and crew. The second season of "House of Cards" would need a 55 percent bigger workforce, he said.

In addition to the two high-profile shows, three independent films were produced in Maryland in fiscal 2012 -- "Ping Pong Summer," "Better Living Through Chemistry" and "Jamesy Boy."

While nobody testified in opposition to the bill, Hannah Byron, assistant secretary of business and economic development, said her office had been contacted by smaller production companies that wanted the bill to set aside money for them.

To qualify for tax credits, a production must spend at least $500,000 in Maryland. That amount prohibits many smaller productions from receiving the incentives.

Byron said her department opposes carving out money for small productions but is willing to work with them.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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