House Votes in Favor of Theater Tax Credit Program

Will it be enough to help the struggling local theater scene?

Theatre District in Boston

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It’s no secret that the local theater scene has been struggling lately, but a recent move by lawmakers may give it a much needed boost.

The House voted on Thursday to include a theater tax credit program in the economic development bill. Similar to the controversial film tax credit program, the legislation would give credits to a variety of theatrical productions in Massachusetts.

While Gov. Charlie Baker has been a critic of film credits, the theater tax credit program would differ in a few ways. Credits for eligible productions would be capped at $5 million annually and the program would expire on January 1, 2022.

Qualifying plays and musicals would be able to receive tax credits for payroll costs related to Massachusetts residents, in addition to other expenditures, such as transporting people in and out of the state. However, salaries for out-of-state workers, such as actors, wouldn’t be eligible for a tax credit.

The program for theatrical productions is similar to what was included in a 2014 economic development bill, which ended up being vetoed by former Gov. Deval Patrick.

Spearheaded by Rep. Nick Collins of South Boston and Rep. Paul McMurtry of Dedham, the new legislation expands eligibility from the previous attempt. In addition to pre-Broadway productions, pre-off Broadway productions, and “Broadway Tour” shows, original stage productions premiering for the first time would be able to qualify as well.

In an attempt to help out smaller theater companies, the legislation would also require qualifying productions to pay 15 percent of their tax credits into the Massachusetts Cultural Council Facilities Fund.

The program would take effect only if Gov. Baker signs the bill when it reaches his desk. Should he decide to veto the proposal instead, lawmakers may be unable to reverse his decision as the Massachusetts legislative session adjourns for the year on July 31.