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New Mexico movie/TV shoots bring in record $855.4 million

Dark-Winds-Michael Moriatis-Stalwart Productions-AMC
A scene from AMC's Dark Winds, starring Zahn McClarnon (standing) as Lt. Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police, and Kiowa Gordon as his deputy Jim Chee. The series, which has been renewed for a second season, is shot in New Mexico. (Photo by Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions/AMC)

Later today, the hubby and I will watch the season finale of Dark Winds. Tomorrow night, we'll be planted in front of our TV for the next episode of Better Call Saul.

Not only are both shows on AMC, they are great television.

They also are filmed in New Mexico, primarily because the Land of Enhancement offers production companies tax breaks.

Tax incentives make for plenty of viewing: The plethora of movies and television series, both traditional and streaming, that are filmed in New Mexico is welcomed not only by viewers who are fans of the shows. The state also has happily raked in millions from the productions.

Last week, the New Mexico Film Commission and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that the entertainment industry brought in $855.4 million in direct spending for fiscal year 2022. That's an increase of $228.9 million over fiscal year 2021, according to state officials.

The $855.4 million also is this week's By the Numbers figure.

Widespread production tax breaks: It's hooray for Hollywood well beyond Los Angeles' borders.

Thirty-five states (and Washington, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) now offer some type of production tax incentives. They come in various forms. The most common are tax credits that are equal to a percentage of a film or television production's qualified in-state spending, and exemptions from sales tax on qualified transactions.

The tax breaks also can be specialized. In New Mexico, for example, the rural uplift credit, implemented in 2019, gives a production a 5 percent incentive to film at least 60 miles outside of the more populous (and popular) Bernalillo and Santa Fe county corridor.

State officials say that incentive helped New Mexico's rural communities realize a 660 percent increase in direct spending from the film and TV industry. In dollars, that was an increase in from $6.5 million in fiscal year 2021 to nearly $50 million in fiscal 2022.

They also point to a more permanent result of the tax lures. Netflix and NBCUniversal have committed to longer-term production goals. They are building their own facilities in New Mexico where they will film future projects.

Not all are tax break fans: Still, some people aren't convinced that the tax breaks are worth it.

A report last November showed that New Mexico gave out about $160 million in tax credits during fiscal 2020 and 2021 to get $850+ million in spending. The New Mexico Department of Tax and Revenue reports that so far this calendar year, the state has paid out $47.1 million, with an additional $13.3 million paid out for fiscal 2022.

While that's a decent return on investment, some New Mexico lawmakers are calling for independent audits of the film incentives to get an unbiased view of the tax breaks' benefits and problems.

I agree that there needs to be transparency on how state and local tax dollars are spent. Even a film fanatic and small-screen addict knows there's no room for illusions and special effects when it comes to public dollars.

But from a pure entertainment point of view, and as a neighbor of, not a taxpayer in New Mexico, I am thrilled that the state has given the hubby and me so many enjoyable hours.

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