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State film tax incentive program under fire

By Lauren Maxwell 8:19 AM March 6, 2014

Lawmakers say the program has handed out as much as $40 million in tax credits since its inception in 2008.

ANCHORAGE – Is the State of Alaska’s Film Tax Incentive Program worth the money?

Rep. Bill Stoltze doesn’t think so: He’s sponsoring a bill that would make the program go away.

Stoltze said the program has handed out as much as $40 million in tax credits since its inception in 2008. He said that’s money that could have gone into state coffers.

But Alaskans who work in the industry say the program is working and the Legislature shouldn’t mess with it.

“There’s national commercials, international commercials, there’s a heck of a lot of reality television going on and documentaries being made,” said Steven Rychetnik, owner of the local production company SprocketHeads. Rychetnik says his phone is ringing every day with calls about work or questions about shooting in Alaska.

The program offers a big incentive for local hire. Productions that hire Alaskans can have up to 100 percent of their salaries subsidized. There are also enticements to shoot during the winter and in Rural Alaska.

Supporters of the program are convinced that producers won’t be coming to the state if the tax incentives go away. Many, like SprocketHeads co-owner Carolyn Robinson, said they are frustrated they have to keep fighting to keep it alive. She points out that Gov. Sean Parnell signed an extension of the program just last year that was supposed to keep it running till 2023.

“I feel like people just focus on this program because it’s Hollywood, and in reality, it is not Hollywood, it’s a bunch of Alaskans who are working very hard and who have worked very hard for years to bring this new industry here,” Robinson said.

She said the state should keep it’s promise and let the program do its work.

Stoltze’s bill currently remains in the House Finance Committee for review.

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