Hawaii lawmakers hear Hollywood push for tax breaks

Cuba Gooding Jr.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Ryan Kavanaugh
Ryan Kavanaugh

By Lisa Kubota - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - State lawmakers are considering a measure that offers extra tax incentives to draw more TV and film productions to Hawaii. After listening to testimony, the two Senate panels deferred action on the bill until Wednesday. Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. traveled to Oahu to testify in support of the proposal.

"I flew over here because to me it was exciting to think that I can come to someplace that was a childhood dream that was realized, and to film over here, it's really a big deal for me," he said.

The star has filmed movies here including "Outbreak" on Kauai.

"That was a special thing for me, a special time. Then brought back again to do Pearl Harbor on Oahu, and that experience for me is something I'll never forget," said Gooding.

Hollywood studios are hoping lawmakers will pass a bill that offers additional tax incentives for the production industry.

"It's definitely not cost effective to shoot here right now. In fact, it's cost prohibitive. We shot a movie called 'Perfect Getaway' about Hawaii and we shot it in Puerto Rico and it saved us $5 million on a $12 million movie," said Ryan Kavanaugh, founder of Relativity Media.

The measure would increase film production income tax credits, provide tax incentives for new facilities, create a rebate for a local crew training program, and offer exemptions from hotel room taxes for productions after 30 days. Relativity Media has committed to building two production facilities, one on Oahu and one on Maui, if the bill becomes law. Kavanaugh said that could mean filming up to 20 movies in Hawaii each year. Lawmakers, however, still had many questions.

"We want to be sure that if the state of Hawaii is going to be giving tax credits that there's reasons for the tax credits, that the local people are gonna benefit by it, the economy will benefit by it, and that we have the resources," said Sen. Donna Mercado Kim.

"I think a lot of the frustrations came from the fact that it came in so late and hadn't had a lot of time to review it, but I'm very optimistic," said Kavanaugh.

A similar measure in the House is scheduled for decision-making on Tuesday.

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