Legislative session ends, leaving the film industry and some public health lobbyists disappointed

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Baton Rouge, La. (WGNO) - The president of the Louisiana Film & Entertainment Association, Will French, is seeing red—and it’s not the red carpet. He says that after two years of working to find a solution to the state’s film tax credit situation, the legislature chose an option that’s “unconstitutional,” capping redemptions at $180 million.

"The problem is that the film industry around the whole country is following what Louisiana is doing. I'm afraid that the uncertainty that's just been injected into the program is going to have a chilling effect starting immediately," says French.

He calls what passed in Baton Rouge “a catastrophic mess” that calls for more legal action. He’s hoping the plans don’t make it past the governor’s desk, or else the state’s film industry could go riding off into the sunset.

"It seems to be an administrative nightmare to figure out whose credits you honor and whose credits you don't. Is it first come first served? How do you know who even filed their tax return first when everybody files their taxes on the same day?” questions French.

Also in the legislative headlines: a new tax that means cigarettes will cost an additional fifty cents per pack after July 1, bringing the total tax to 86 cents per pack.

Stasha Rhodes is a director of advocacy for the American Heart Association. She says the fifty-cent jump is a step in the right direction, but it's actually a win for big tobacco.

"We are disappointed that they did not choose to increase it by the full dollar. Louisiana hasn't increased its tobacco tax since 2002, and at 36 cents it's the 3rd lowest in the nation,” says Rhodes.

The current 36-cent tax results in $116 million a year, a number that Rhodes says pales compared to these statistics: "We lose 7,000 people a year from smoking- related deaths and while cigarettes are cheap in Louisiana, the cost of smoking is high. We spend $1.9 billion in health care costs related to tobacco,” says Rhodes.

 

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