After film incentives cut, industry reaches out to GOP

The Detroit News

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and five other Republican Senate committee leaders are scheduled this month to attend a Motion Pictures Association of America event in Washington, D.C., an industry spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.

Meekhof, R-West Olive, and the five Republican senators are attending a reception and screening April 30 hosted by the film industry group, said Kate Bedingfield, vice president of corporation communications at the MPAA. Meekhof's office also confirmed he will be attending.

The film or films that will be screened have not yet been decided, Bedingfield said.

"It is not a fundraiser," Bedingfield said. "It's part of our general outreach to lawmakers around the country about the economic impact of the film industry and the jobs and revenue that production brings to local economies."

The event comes more than a month after the GOP-controlled House voted 58-51 to kill funding for film incentives in next year's budget. Gov. Rick Snyder requested $50 million after the Legislature was forced to cut this year's film cash payouts to $38 million from $50 million to help fill a $325 million midyear budget shortfall.

Meekhof has indicated he will fight to continue funding for film incentives in next year's budget.

"Senator Meekhof has been a supporter of the film program in Michigan and does support continued funding for the program," Meekhof spokeswoman Amber McCann said in a Thursday email.

The Senate majority leader argues film production in Michigan has created job opportunities for skilled trades workers who build movie sets.

"I don't think that's being counted at all with these folks that are no longer unemployed, who are skilled electricians, carpenters and all those folks who get to apply their trade in the film industry," Meekhof told The News earlier this year.

Snyder last year signed a law setting the movie tax rebate at 25 percent for in-state production costs, down from a previous range of as high as 32 percent. The law also kept the film incentives program in place through September 2021, though the funding remains subject to annual appropriations by the Legislature.

Invited to the MPAA dinner are Sens. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, who chairs the Appropriations Committee chairman, and Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, who chairs the Economic Development and International Investment Committee, according to Bedingfield and McCann. Also on the invitation list are Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, Sens. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has joined the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and many conservative Republicans in calling for the end of film incentives. The chamber argues the incentives are "wasteful spending" that represent "government boondoggles" because the incentives don't create permanent jobs.