Abigail Maki

The 2023 Legislative session is ending in a few short weeks but there is still debate on an issue that Montanans should watch closely: The Film Tax Credit bills.

With the bipartisan passage of the original bill in 2019, the Montana film industry experienced growth - in both tourism and job creation. According to a recent UM study, the 2019 Media Act created 10,000 new jobs direct and indirect, all revenue combined returned approximately $40 million back to the state general fund. This is meaningful economic growth.

In this legislative session, three bills involving the Film Tax Credit were introduced. All three promised to hire Montana Veterans and Native Americans as a condition for the tax credits. Two of these bills were killed. Thankfully, Senator Greg Hertz has the final remaining bill alive in this session.

We had an opportunity to expand the Tax Credit for the film industry. Raising the Tax credit cap would have allowed for this. The current legislation has a proposed cap of $30 Million and while this will allow for current production to stay in MT, it will delay what we need most- meaningful clean economic growth, and continued job growth for our youth.

Without raising this tax credit cap, no meaningful expansion can happen. The plans for a state-of-the-art filming facility outside of Billing will be delayed. Opportunity for industry training and cash infusions in the universities and vocational schools will be lost. The facility itself as proposed could have employed 2,000 Montanans across the state. Without raising the tax credit cap, these jobs will not be created.

Job & economic growth is important to every Montanan and our quality of life. It was a priority promised in the 2023 legislative session; therefore it is a bit confusing to our Veteran communities and business leaders why Montana leaders are not investing more in growth and jobs with the record surplus that we had available.

Montanans are facing a unique opportunity: Growth in an industry that will bring well-paying jobs, housing, and much needed infrastructure to our towns. We can take this opportunity and harness it to create a job market in this state that allows our youth a chance to stay in the place they know and love. Will we take this opportunity, or did we miss the ball?