Thursday, September 24, 2009

Econ. director resigns; Governor of Iowa suspends film tax breaks

BY JASON CLAYWORTH • • September 18, 2009

Gov. Chet Culver’s staff announced the resignation of Mike Tramontina in an e-mail at 4:56 p.m., simply saying that the governor had accepted the resignation.In addition, the press release included a copy of a letter dated today in which Culver tells Robert Boeken, chair of the board, that he is “very troubled” by accounting methods used to track the state’s controversial tax credit for movies.

Culver then requests that all future expenditures for the movie tax credit be suspended until questions can be answered.The tax credits have been promoted by the Iowa Film Office as "Half-Price Filmmaking." A qualified $1 million project, for example, can obtain as much as $500,000 in transferable Iowa income-tax credit certificates. Movie makers can sell those credits to any Iowa taxpayer for market prices or use the credits to reduce their own tax obligations.The credit, which has been in place since 2007, was enhanced by lawmakers this year to extend breaks to more movie employees. However, lawmakers also added a cap of $185 million a year for five tax-credit programs that largely deal with job creation, film production and business research.The Iowa Department of Economic Development Board is in charge of dividing the $185 million among the programs and has set a $50 million cap for the film tax credit.Film advocates at the public hearing in Des Moines last month said the $50 million cap could be gobbled by one large film and leave dozens of others without tax breaks.Prior to working as Iowa’s economic development director, Tramontina worked as the Director of the Iowa Department of Management for two years during the Tom Vilsack administration. He moved into that position after working four and a half years as Executive Director of the Iowa Finance Authority where he coordinated the State’s housing policy. Tramontina has spent his career in the areas of government and finance. He has worked in the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as Secretary’s Representative for the Great Plains region, as Deputy State Treasurer, as a Research analyst in the Iowa Senate and as a Congressional District Aide. He also worked in the private sector as an investment banker in public finance. Tramontina is a native of Sioux City and a graduate of University of Iowa.

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