It got a bit of a rockier ride than previous hearings but today legislation to expand California’s current $100 million Film and TV Tax Credit program was approved by the state Senate’s Governance and Finance Committee. In a 4-0 vote, the multi-sponsored Film and Television Job Creation and Retention Act now heads to the body’s Appropriation committee. If it passes there, the Act will go to the full Senate for a floor vote and soon after to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signature. Introduced in late February by Democrats Mike Gatto and Raul Bocanegra ad intended to halt the flood of production out of the Golden State in recent years, the Act was overwhelmingly passed by the state Assembly on May 28.
Despite big support from unions, studios, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, regional film commissions and others, the Act did not however get a vote from committee chair Sen. Lois Wolk today. “Right now this is a blank check, I don’t like blank checks,” said Democrat Wolk after closing testimony from Gatto this morning in Sacramento. While changing the present program by allowing movies with budgets over $75 million and network pilots to be eligible for tax credits, the Act, also known as AB 1839, still doesn’t yet have a dollar figure attached to it. Something that Gatto says he expects to change in the coming weeks as the Act moves to Appropriations and now the state budget was set on June 15.
In testimony today, Gatto also told the Senators that he and his staff wanted to wait until the budgetary dust and political deal making had settled before tacking a figure on. Sources have told me that the intention is to find a figure somewhere between $300 and $420 million for the program. Currently New York State has the most lucrative tax incentives for the film and TV industry at $420 million. Industry figures feel they need to be close to that to be truly competitive. The man who will ultimately decide if that hope will become a reality is Gov. Brown. About to launch his re-election campaign, the fiscally conservative Brown has not given any public indication that he supports such an expansion. Brown signed the last extension to California’s film and TV tax credit in September 2012 on the last day possible. The new proposed Act aims for the program to run for 5 years from 2016 to 2021 as opposed to current 2-years extension method.