Originally posted on the Orlando Sentinel website from Gray Rohrer:
Film and entertainment industry representatives want Florida lawmakers to show them the money. Again. Entertainment industry representatives made their case before a House panel Thursday, defending a now-dormant state program that issued $296 million in tax credits to film, TV and other productions over the last four years. A recently published report from state economists showed the program did not break even in terms of state revenue.
“Our industry is a job creator . . . for every one person that you see on the big or small screen, there are at least 10 people behind them,” said Michelle Hillery, president of Film Florida, an industry trade group.
Lawmakers this year will consider proposals to refund the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program, which reimburses productions with transferrable tax credits based on the amount of Florida-based sales and wages paid out through production costs. They decided not to fund the program last year when the last of the credits were claimed by production companies making films, TV shows, music videos, digital shorts, commercials and video games.
John Lux is chief operating officer of IDEAS, an Orlando-based media and design firm with an entertainment division employing eight workers. He said the entertainment division was working on more than 20 projects when the incentive program was running but that’s fallen to just three in the past three years.
A legislative report found that most of the 29,023 Floridians employed statewide through the productions receiving tax credits were part-time extras or stand-ins in TV or film projects. But Lux said that measure would include his employees.
“Essentially we’re the textbook example of why this program is good, because we’ve received overflow work from different entitites that are working on the projects. When they’re talking about part-time or freelance labor, essentially our organization fills the bill,” Lux said.
But the Legislature’s chief economist, Amy Baker, noted in her presentation to the panel that her analysis, which found the program did not make back the investment from state coffers, assumed the incentives were the defining factor in productions’ decisions to film in Florida. The return on investment could be even worse if some of the projects would have filmed in Florida anyway.
“If you didn’t make this assumption it would drive the (return on investment) down further,” Baker told the panel.
But industry officials insist Florida is losing out on TV and film productions to Georgia and Louisiana, which both have more lucrative tax incentive programs.
“I’m here to share with you that we have lost a substantial amount of new business over the past two years and we stand to lose more,” Hillery said.
Some lawmakers, though, were left wondering how much money would be needed to truly reignite the program and if that would spark a money race with other states.
“If we’re going to get into a bidding war with other states, when does it stop?” Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, asked.
Click HERE to read the article on the Orlando Sentinel website.