Gov. Jim Doyle proposed cutting Wisconsin’s tax credits for film productions Wednesday, despite Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton’s support for the incentives.
The credits lured Johnny Depp and his film, “Public Enemies,” to various shooting locations throughout the state last summer, including the Capitol Square.
Although the governor originally supported the incentives, he is now proposing a $500,000 grant in place of them, which he hopes will go towards creating long-term jobs in Wisconsin, according to Department of Commerce spokesperson Tony Hozeny.
“The program was not going to get us to where we needed to get,” Hozeny said. “We have a responsibility to the taxpayers that it compares favorably to other economic programs in creating jobs.”
Even though Doyle supports cutting the tax incentives, Lawton still believes the tax credits are a benefit for the entire state.
According to Lawton spokesperson Ben Nuckels, the incentives help bring in revenue for the state while also creating jobs for Wisconsin citizens.
“According to an independent study by Film Wisconsin, 759 jobs were created as a direct result of the film incentives in at least 14 different communities,” Nuckels said. “[She] doesn’t feel like now is the time to end a bright spot in our economy.”
Nuckels said the end of the incentives would have long-term consequences for the state, citing the specific example of producer Susan Moses, who was set to film a movie in Milwaukee and Green Bay this May. Moses called Lawton’s office on Thursday to say if the incentives were not in place, she would not be filming in the state.
Lawton plans to work with the Legislature to ensure that the tax incentive is included their version of the budget.
Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, author of the tax incentive bill, agreed with Lawton.
“I think it’s a big mistake, and I think [Doyle is] missing the larger picture,” Kanavas said. “It’s not just about the films and it’s not just the employees, all these talented people that are coming home to work instead of in California.”
Like Lawton, Kanavas plans to fight for the incentive to be included in the budget during upcoming deliberations.
David Fantle of Visit Milwaukee, a group dedicated to tourism in the area, agreed as well, arguing that giving up on the plan just 13 months into its creation is bad for business.
“It was one of Wisconsin’s shining stars of the economy the past year, and to pull the rug out from under it is mind boggling,” Fantle said. “We will be at the bottom of the tier for film-friendly states.”
The Department of Commerce reported the production of Depp’s “Public Enemies” made the state $5 million during filming.
Wisconsin received about $4.6 million back due to the 25 percent credit, Hozeny said.
However, recent numbers released by the Motion Picture Association of America reveal that Universal Studios spent $18 million in Wisconsin while producing the film, and at least 1600 jobs were created.
Hozeny called into question the MPAA’s numbers and insisted the DOC’s numbers are correct.
Doyle spokesperson Carla Vigue said the governor’s office is not commenting directly on the matter.