CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia House passed a bill Tuesday that would give financial incentives to filmmakers working on projects in the state, as long as they portray West Virginia in a positive light.
Using the proposed tax credit, filmmakers could recoup up to 27% of spending on movies, television shows and music videos in West Virginia that cost at least $50,000 to make. The program would be administered by the West Virginia Development Office, a division of the West Virginia Department of Commerce.
The development office would be allowed to give out up to $10 million in tax credits each fiscal year, which starts in July. The office can give out more credits for any feature-length films produced with “West Virginia” in the title or if the subject of the film is “clearly identified as West Virginia.”
The development office would have the discretion to deny the credit to a project that “negatively portrays the state of West Virginia.” The office can also deny projects that contain “obscene” or sexually explicit material.
Democratic Del. Kayla Young said “time and time again” people in the state have seen filmmakers who come into the state who just tried to portray it negatively.
Republican Del. Daniel Linville agreed.
“I think that having a benefit for people to tell West Virginia’s story in a positive light is something that we should all get behind,” he said.
West Virginia used to have a film tax credit, but it was ended in 2018 after a legislative audit report deemed the credit as providing only “minimal economic impact.”
Del. Dianna Graves, the lead sponsor, said it was right for the state to kill the former program because it had a lot of problems.
“There was actual fraud going on,” she said. “When I actually pulled the audit procedures that were designed for this bill, they were some of the worst I’ve ever seen.”
Graves said she’s spent nine months closing the loopholes in meetings with the legislative auditor and others. Additionally, she said she added a sunset provision to the bill which allows lawmakers to reevaluate the program over time and end it if it proves to be unsuccessful.
She said it’s time for West Virginia to stop missing out on opportunities. All of the states bordering West Virginia have film tax credits, according to Graves.
“When you look at a map, it’s like a sea of film tax credits and a black hole where West Virginia is,” she said.