By DANYEL VANREENEN
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill threatening to financially impact the Eastern Panhandle by cutting film tax credits in the state was defeated in the state House of Representatives Tuesday morning, according to Delegate Jason Barrett, D-Berkeley.
Barrett said the film tax credit is an incentive used to bring revenue and business into West Virginia.
The $5 million tax credit provides a one-to-one match incentive, according to Barrett.
“The film tax credit is the reason the Eastern Panhandle has been able to attract film producers and commerce associated with filming,”Barrett said.
Laura Gassler, executive director of the Martinsburg Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau, agrees that the tax credit has had a vastly positive impact on the Eastern Panhandle.
“$54 million was spent in direct spending as a result of the film tax credit,” Gassler said. “$30 million alone was spent in the Eastern Panhandle, which has been very important.”
Gassler said over 10,000 hotel room nights were booked by film crews in the Eastern Panhandle the past few years as well — which has benefited the Berkeley County Parks and Recreation Department and the Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau through the six percent hotel and motel tax.
Barrett said the film industry has brought jobs to the area as well. The companies have needed to cast extras and contract construction work to build sets.
Six mini-series — including American Genius, American Speed: NASCAR and The Men Who Built America — have been filmed in the Eastern Panhandle recently, and the series’ have aired on networks like AMC and The History Channel. Currently, the Berkeley County Convention & Visitors Bureau is talking to four producers. Gassler said the producers plan to commit to filming in Berkeley County this summer and fall.
HB 2816 also proposed to increase an increase to the beer barrel tax. Barrett said the bill would have raised the taxes on 31 gallons of beer by $2.50 for a total of $8 per 31 gallons.
“The increase would have had a negative impact for border counties especially,” Barrett said. “People would have started buying beer out of state, which would have harmed West Virginia businesses.”
The bill to cut film tax credits and increase the beer barrel tax was defeated 60 to 39 in the House on Tuesday, however. Barrett said the bill’s defeat may indicate the defeat of other budget and tax reform bills as well.
“I think the defeat of HB 2816 is a pretty good indication of the next couple days,” Barrett said. “If the House couldn’t pass a $2.8 million increase on beer taxes, I don’t know how they’re going to pass their other proposed increases.”
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