California Assemblyman: FBI Sting Wont Hurt Incentive Plans

Raul Bocanegra Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of Subject

Raul Bocanegra Headshot - P 2013

"The integrity of the program was not affected … and this will not deter us in any way," Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra says at a Hollywood Chamber of Commerce conference.

The recent FBI sting of California State Sen. Ron Calderon will not stop passage of the pending extension of the state's tax incentive program to keep film and TV productions from leaving the state.

That was the promise made by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, author of the pending bill in the State Assembly on Tuesday. Calling it "the elephant in the room," he said the sting had to be discussed as he opened the second annual Hollywood Chamber of Commerce State of the Industry Conference on Tuesday.

Bocanegra is a first-year member of the assembly, and AB3, a bill to extend and expand the current tax incentive program, was the first piece of legislation he introduced. Calderon is accused of taking bribes in exchange for adding language to Bocanegra's bill that would lower the amount of money a filmmaker would have to spend in state to qualify for a tax credit.

"I want to be clear," said Bocanegra, "the integrity of the program itself was never questioned. This is the most transparent tax incentive program that California has, and this will not deter us in any way next year. ... The fact the FBI found the tax credit to be a convenient [way to target Calderon] has nothing to do with the merits of the film tax credit [program itself]."

Bocanegra said he not only wants to extend the current $100 million annual tax credit program but increase the amount and extend the term beyond two years (it has been extended three times already) in order to give film and TV makers confidence that California is the place to shoot.

But it is not going to be easy, he added, asking for help from unions, guilds, government officials and the audience of industryites.

"This is Hollywood and we know sometimes perception is reality," said Bocanegra. "That is why we need all of you to tell the public how important this tax incentive program is to the industry and to the state of California."

Bocanegra said that next year marks 75 years since 1939, one of the greatest years in cinematic history, which saw the release of films such as The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind.

The assemblyman noted it was also the year of his favorite movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the plot of which Bocanegra compared to the current real-life situation the industry faces, stating: "In the end the good guys and good policies can win out over the scheming insiders who are up to no good. That is the happy ending we are going to have.

"Let's make that happen again by passing AB3," said Bocanegra. "And let's give everyone whose job depends on film and television production, and everyone who is aided by the revenues that film and television production bring to California, something to cheer about."