A second run for Iowa film incentives gets committee approval

DES MOINES — A House committee has approved a bill with guidelines for a limited revival of state incentives for movies and TV shows filmed in Iowa, but the original version has been altered. The plan no longer requires that actors be Iowa residents in order for the project to be eligible for the program.

Representative Chuck Isenhart of Dubuque, a Democrat, backs the bill, but he said that part seems contrary to the goal. “It could be used to inadvertently prevent us from doing what I think we’re intending to do with this bill and that is employ Iowa actors and actresses and use Iowa vendors on the project,” Isenhart said. “This throws that into question in my view.”

Under the bill, production companies could be eligible for a rebate worth up to 30% of the project’s expenses, but only $5 million in rebates would be available in each of the next two years. Republican Representative Brent Siegrist of Council Bluffs said it doesn’t matter who the stars of the movie are, it’s what the production spends in Iowa that’s important.

“They are going to be here in Iowa, staying in our hotels, eating at restaurants, probably using local craftsmen for their sets and everything else,” Siegrist said, “so whether they’re paying a big Hollywood a bunch of money or a bunch of lesser actors lesser money, it’s about the expenses.”

Fifteen years ago the State of Iowa cancelled its film tax credit program after auditors found the majority of credits were miscued and some Iowa vendors were never paid.

Republican Representative Jane Bloomingdale of Northwood said she’s confident the program’s second run can be successful. “The Iowa Economic Development Authority has worked with this, they’ve worked with so many grant programs that they know how to write the rules,” Bloomingdale said.

All 24 members of the House Ways and Means Committee voted for the bill Wednesday and it’s now eligible for debate in the 100-member Iowa House.