Sacramento Lawmaker Warns of ‘Perception’ of Production Incentive Program After FBI Sting

Califronia Tax Incentives Sacramento Capitol
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra said that his planned legislation to expand the state’s incentive program will be a “significant increase” in the current tax credits.

But he suggested that advocates of the credit may face an additional challenge following the revelation that the FBI staged a sting on State Sen. Ron Calderon. According to an affidavit disclosed by Al Jazeera America, agents went undercover as movie producers to lure Calderon with promises of favors for his family and cash payments if he would agree to push for an expansion of the tax credit program.

Speaking to the State of the Industry Conference in Hollywood, Bocanegra called the sting the “elephant in the room” as advocates of expanding the program prepare for a lobbying push in Sacramento.

Bocanegra said that the “FBI could have picked any topic from any industry to mount a sting.” He added that “in the real world, this shouldn’t impact the effort to make the California film tax credit what it should be.”

“But this is Hollywood,” he added. “And you know better than anyone else how perception can trump reality.”

He said that he was “confident that the program will stand up to the strictest of scrutiny.”

Some industry figures, like FilmLA’s Paul Audley, said that they were worried that the sting would be another hurdle as they try to convince Sacramento lawmakers to expand the program.

“I want to be clear. The integrity of the program itself was never questioned,” Bocanegra said. “This is the most transparent tax incentive program that California has and this will not deter us in any way next year.”

Bocanegra, chairman of the Assembly revenue and taxation committee, plans to unveil details in January.

Bocanegra did not say much about details of the legislation at the conference, but that the incentives “will be longer and it will be larger.”

The conference is sponsored by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Variety and other sponsors.

Update: This story originally stated that Bocanegra was co-authoring his legislation with Assemblyman Ian Calderon, Ron Calderon’s nephew, as had been announced in a press release from Bocanegra’s office last month, before the two lawmakers held a hearing on tax incentives at SAG-AFTRA headquarters. A spokesman for Bocanegra said that he is the only author of the tax incentive legislation, Assembly Bill 3, and that the information in the press release was incorrect.

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