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August 4, 2014
Federal Lawmakers Call on State to Expand Film Tax Credit
by Maria Koklanaris

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by Maria Koklanaris --

Twenty-nine Democratic members of the California congressional delegation on July 29 asked leaders of the California State Senate and State Assembly to reauthorize the state's film tax credit and make it more generous.

"If we fail to take decisive action to enhance the state film tax credit, we run the real risk that many well-paying jobs will be lost for good to states with far more generous credits," said U.S. Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., who led the 28 other members in writing the letter.

The Assembly has already passed AB 1839, which would expand the film tax credit by lifting the budget cap on feature films eligible to apply; expanding the program to all one-hour television series, including those airing on cable and Netflix; and offering a 25 percent credit for television shows that relocate to California. The bill is pending in the Senate.

The federal lawmakers' letter, which urges the State Legislature to pass AB 1839 and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to sign the bill, also comes on the heels of a July 23 report from the California Film Commission. That report found that nearly 100 film projects denied funding under California's film and television tax credit ended up heading to locales where funding was available, at a cost of nearly $2 billion.

U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., one of the signers of the letter, said that the loss of film projects in California translates to hardship for some of her constituents, who she said are not highly paid actors but middle-income production workers. "My district is home to the craftsmen and women who often have to pack up and leave their families behind for months at a time to work on location," Chu said.

But Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation was critical of AB 1839. Henchman said lawmakers have promised a cap on film tax credits in the final version of AB 1839, but a dollar amount for the cap is "not in the current form, and no one seems willing to a commit to a number." He said the result will likely mean "a lot of money to commit to subsidizing film production for a state with many important needs."

Henchman also said the film industry has not made specific pledges about what it would do if granted additional incentives. "Other tax credit programs require recipients to meet specified job and production numbers or else they don't get the tax subsidy," he said. "Why should this be different?"

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