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Filmmakers Urge County to Forget Lease Tax Hike

Thursday, November 20, 2003
Special to
by Abdon M. Pallasch

Filmmakers say Cook County's proposed 4 percent lease tax will undo much of the good the state has been trying to accomplish with tax incentives to lure the movie-making industry back to Chicago.

"At a time when we are hopeful that state subsidies will reduce production costs in the Chicago area enough to finally turn the tide, I urge that the Cook County Board not approve new taxes that will increase those costs," Wayne Kubacki, vice president of Essanay Studio and Lighting Co. Inc., told County Board members at a budget hearing Wednesday.

Kubacki was one of three industry representatives urging board members not to approve the new taxes.

County Board President John Stroger says the county needs that tax hike and a quarter-percent increase in the sales tax to plug a $100 million budget deficit.

This summer, Gov. Blagojevich signed a 25 percent tax credit for filmmakers who shoot movies in Chicago using local work crews. Any tax loss to state coffers would be more than made up by the dollars that would flow into the state's economy if the film industry revved up here again like the good old days, Blagojevich said.

This year, only one movie, "Barbershop 2," was shot here. The Oscar-winning movie "Chicago," like many films nowadays, was shot last year in Toronto, where the taxes are lower, the city doesn't charge for police or other permits, and there's no tax on leasing trailers and movie-making equipment.

Chicago already charges a 6 percent lease tax. If county commissioners approve an increase, 10 percent would be added to the cost of leasing everything from movie-making equipment to cars in Chicago.

The film industry representatives were among 48 speakers at the hearing. Many others, including union officials, endorsed the tax increases.

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