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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montana lawmakers consider boosting tax breaks for film production

 Kevin Costner in the 'Yellowstone' episode 'Horses in Heaven (2022)'
Paramount Network
Kevin Costner in the 'Yellowstone' episode 'Horses in Heaven (2022)'

The 2019 MEDIA Act offered up to $10 million per year in tax credits for movies and TV shows that shoot in Montana. The act was designed to entice productions to the state, such as Paramount’s hit TV series “Yellowstone,” which moved filming to western Montana after it maxed out Utah’s cap on tax credits.

After an increase in the last legislative session, Senate Bill 14 would raise the cap on tax credits to $30 million per year. Republican Senator Greg Hertz of Polson is the bill’s sponsor.

“It’s become apparent that, if you want to encourage productions in your state, you need to get active here,” Hertz said. “I think Utah learned a lesson.”

A report from legislative staff estimated that the productions of “Yellowstone” and a spinoff series alone qualified for the entirety of the existing $12 million in credits last year. The report also indicated the proposed $30 million cap on credits would be reached without any new shows moving into the state.

University of Montana researchers earlier this year found more than 2 million people visited Montana in part because of the “Yellowstone” series and spent an estimated $730 million last year.

Proponents of the bill at its first hearing in the Senate Taxation Committee last week included media moguls, Montana business owners and a lawyer for Paramount. They argued the tax credit pays for itself with the amount of revenue generated from big film productions in the communities they shoot in.

Charles Robinson spoke in support of the bill for the Montana Chamber of Commerce.

“We should welcome this new investment and grow this industry in Montana, and you can do that by increasing the tax opportunity,” Robinson said. 

Two opponents who spoke said they want lawmakers to remove the cap on credits entirely.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

Austin graduated from the University of Montana’s journalism program in May 2022. He came to MTPR as an evening newscast intern that summer, and jumped at the chance to join full-time as the station’s morning voice in Fall 2022.

He is best reached by emailing
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