Changes to Florida incentive program

New bill aims to increase coin for filmmakers

A bill introduced in Florida’s state Legislature on Wednesday would transform the Sunshine State’s incentives program from direct grants appropriated year by year to a rolling multiyear tax credit program — and significantly increase the amount of coin available to filmmakers.

The current state budget offers $10.8 million in payouts to filmmakers this fiscal year. The legislation proposes $75 million in tax credits each year for qualifying films for the next three years. It also raises the base incentive amount for major projects from 15% to 20% and the supplemental incentive for family-friendly content from 2% to 5%.

The measure is designed to make Florida more competitive with states such as Louisiana, North Carolina and Michigan, which have aggressively chased Hollywood projects in recent years via spiraling incentives programs. The action also comes one day after New York Gov. David Paterson unveiled a state budget plan that included $2.1 billion in film tax incentives over a five-year period (Daily Variety, Jan. 20).

Two Republican state legislators, Rep. Steve Precourt and Senate president-designate Mike Haridopolos, are backing the Florida bill, called the Entertainment Industry Economic Development Act.

Precourt said the bill’s chances of passing during the upcoming March-April legislative session in Tallahassee are excellent. “This is a jobs bill, and our economy in Florida is screaming out for any mechanism that can encourage job growth,” he told Daily Variety, adding that the legislation enjoys bipartisan support.

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who must sign the legislation for it to become law, “loves this bill,” Precourt said. Legislators would have the option of extending the tax credits in the bill’s second and third years, which would lengthen it to a five-year program.

Florida’s film office would be able to start issuing credits immediately upon adoption of the program. However, these credits could not be claimed until tax returns for 2012 or later. Latter provision ensures that no coin will be claimed or issued during the state’s upcoming budget cycle.

Only state expenditures such as hiring local residents and money spent on goods and services provided by Florida-based companies qualify for the benefits.

As with earlier legislation, the bill provides an additional 5% in incentive to productions shooting in the state during hurricane season.

“It’s my hope that the days of Florida consistently losing film production and digital media projects to other states will soon be over,” Haridopolos said.

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