Haley signs film-incentives bill

Television crew members were on Upper King Street in downtown Charleston in March to produce the pilot episode of “Reckless” for CBS.

Paul Zoeller

Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law Thursday a bill offering more incentives to movies and television shows that want to film in South Carolina.

The law allows film companies to be reimbursed 20 percent on payroll taxes for wages given to out-of-state people and 25 percent for state residents. Productions also can save up to 30 percent on the taxes spent at local businesses.

The breaks kick in once a TV show or film spends $1 million.

The tax breaks are bigger than ones that have been approved yearly as part of the state budget, and the new law makes the incentives permanent.

Haley said she signed the bill reluctantly. In 2010, she was just one of seven House members who voted to uphold a veto by Gov. Mark Sanford of similar incentives. But she said she realized now that even if she rejected this bill, the breaks would continue.

“Although I have reservations as to the manner in which this program is funded, I signed this bill because it improves the effectiveness of the existing program without increasing its annual cost to the state’s taxpayers,” Haley said in a statement issued with the bill.

“This bill also supports another of my priorities, which is to reduce the number of provisos in each year’s budget. These circumventions of permanent law should be used far more sparingly than they are today,”

The rebates are tied to the state’s admission tax, limiting the amount given every year to around $10 million. The bill also bans breaks for any movie that “appeals to the prurient interest.”

Supporters of the bill said the incentives will help keep South Carolina competitive with other states. Making them permanent should help get longer term productions, which were scared to commit when the breaks could disappear at any time, said John DeWorken, a representative of the Carolina Film Alliance.

The tax breaks are in line with nearby states. The breaks, along with South Carolina’s natural attractions such as beaches and mountains, should be enough to keep the state in the background of plenty of entertainment, said Richard Futch, president of the film alliance.