California Senate Passes $330 Million in Annual Film and TV Incentives

AP Images

The $1.65 billion program, which runs for five years, more than triples the current level of tax credits available in an effort to retain and lure back productions

By a vote of 32 to 2, the California Senate on Friday afternoon passed the bill to expand and extend film and TV tax incentives that will provide $330 million in tax credits each year for five years beginning next July.

It is expected to be passed by the state Assembly as well on Friday or over the weekend. Gov. Jerry Brown is then expected to sign the bill, probably in the middle of September.

The bill was expected to pass after a deal was struck in the past week between legislative leaders and Brown. It is seen as not only a major increase over the current $100 million a year but also a bill that provides transparency, accountability, and one that can really result in saving and job growth.

Senate President Pro Tem-elect Kevin de Leon (D-L.A.), who has been a driving force in shaping and pushing the legislation, was among the first to speak in the Senate on behalf of the bill. He noted that studies show for every job created in the entertainment industry, at least 2.7 other jobs are created in the state.

Not all agreed. Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Martinez) said she was against the bill because she feels the money could be better used elsewhere.

However, as the vote showed, the majority supported the bill. Unlike previous efforts to pass similar bills, this time it was a bipartisan effort for the most part, and it gained support from legislators from both Northern and Southern California.

In his final summation, de Leon called it a "strategic investment" in jobs and the California economy.

"This adds to our economy," de Leon told his fellow senators, "and has a very powerful economic impact."

De Leon called the bill "a smart, efficient and robust tax credit" that will help stop jobs that are "hemorrhaging" from the state.

There have been questions over the years as to whether this is a Hollywood-only bill, said Sen. Alex Padilla (D-L.A.) during the pre-vote debate. "This helps that community and surrounding communities, and frankly it is not [just about Hollywood]."

"This expansion of the Film and TV Tax Credit is a huge victory for Californians," said actress Halle Berry in a statement. "Our industry produces so many great jobs for Californians, especially the people behind the scenes who make the magic happen — the makeup artists, grips, caterers, dry cleaners, accountants, special effects, you name it. We must do everything possible to keep these creative people fueling our economy."

"California for once is putting some money on the table to become more competitive," says Joe Chianese, executive vp of Entertainment Partners. "The $330 million is going to expand the types of TV the state attracts. Raising the cap on tentpole movies will get larger movies to film here again. I think it's all good."

"We're not going to get every tentpole," says Gene Erbin, a Sacramento lawyer who worked with the Directors Guild on the bill. "We're not delusional. We will get our share back. We believe it will work."

The original bill was written by assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-L.A.) and Raul Bocanegra (D-L.A) but in the end had wide support from the leadership and members of both chambers.