‘House of Cards’ will likely get the millions it sought in Maryland film tax credits


Cast member Kevin Spacey poses at the premiere for the second season of the series "House of Cards" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles in February. (© Mario Anzuoni / Reuters)

Well, Annapolis, it looks like “House of Cards” has won.

After weeks of dramatically holding out, a Maryland House of Delegates committee is poised to move legislation that would set aside $11 million for film tax credits in the coming year and stash another $7.5 million in the state budget that officials could tap if needed. That should be enough cash to keep the makers of “House of Cards” happy and filming in the state.

“House of Cards” filmed its first two seasons in Maryland and was rewarded with more than $26 million in tax credits. The filming created hundreds of jobs, pumped millions into local economies and created an immeasurable amount of giddy, star-struck buzz. For the filming of Season 3, the Netflix show had expected to receive $15 million in tax credits, but so far has only been promised $4 million.

“In the event sufficient incentives do not become available, we will have to break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state,” an official with Media Rights Capital, the maker of “House of Cards,” wrote in a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in January.

The letter did not go over well in the House, where some delegates considered it a threat. In hearings and floor debates, there were many references to the antics of Frank Underwood, the conniving, murderous politician played by Kevin Spacey on the show.

At one point, delegates said they would try to use eminent domain to seize “House of Cards” sets and property if filming were to move out of Maryland. They have backed away from that threat, but they are contemplating requiring that shows that receive tax credits commit to spending a certain number of years in the state.

The state Senate has embraced the film tax credit program, voting to increase the allocation to $18.5 million. The House proposal would do that in a more fractured way: $11 million expressly dedicated in the bill, $5 million from a state “sunny day fund” and $2.5 million from an arts fund.

The Ways and Means Committee plans to vote on the legislation Saturday, then send it to the floor for a vote and across the hall for Senate approval. Lawmakers have until Monday to finalize the deal.

As news of the impending deal spread on Friday, the fictional politician Frank Underwood tweeted: “@GovernorOMalley, this all could have gone much more smoothly if you had followed me.”

John Wagner contributed to this report.

Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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