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Alaska Senate approves film tax credit extension, House approval pending

Pat Forgey

JUNEAU -- Alaska's film tax credit program is being given an extended lease on life by senators who voted Wednesday to keep the program going until 2018.

House Bill 308 is aimed at seeing that the state's many tax credits serve their intended purpose and don't keep going "like zombies," and it has won approval in both houses. It had previously called for ending the program in 2016, but Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, said it was too soon to review the film credits.

"It was just two years ago that the Legislature made a commitment to diversify our economy and to grow a new industry with the extension of the Alaska film and television tax incentives," he said.

One of the companies that entered that business, he said, was his local Native corporation, NANA, which invested $40 million.

The short sunset date created uncertainty for businesses, he said.

"I'm a businessman myself, and we don’t like instability. What this does is breeds instability," Olson said.

But Republicans have seen that industry as left-leaning and allied with Democrats, and it has repeatedly been in the sights of budget writers. The Senate vote Wednesday, if it stands, will give the industry more time to get established, supporters said.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, also persuaded the Senate to extend a tax credit for employing veterans that was also recently created and scheduled for quick sunset.

"This was a bill that was just passed; I think we should give it some time to work," he said.

Following split votes to pass those two amendments, the tax credit review bill passed unanimously. The Senate's changes must now be agreed to by the House of Representatives, or a conference committee will be appointed.

Contact Pat Forgey at pat@alaskadispatch.com.