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Legislators introduce bill to expand California film and TV tax credit program

Photo by Roger Jones via Flickr Creative Commons

California state legislators have introduced a new bill that would expand the types of films and TV productions that qualify for the state's $100 million tax credit program.

If approved, the bill would allow big-budget feature films to apply for the financial incentives and extend the program for another five years. Currently, feature films with a maximum of a $75 million production budget can qualify for the program.

The bill also proposes that TV pilots and new one-hour TV series -- regardless of where or how they're distributed, even if it's on Netflix, can apply for the tax credits. The legislation also asks for a 25 percent credit given in the first year for film and TV production that relocates to the Golden State.

The bill comes as movie industry and government officials express concern about TV and film production jobs moving to other states.  Its supporters say the state's tax credit program is too limited. The state's program offers up to $100 million in tax credits each year and the bill's supporters say that can't compete with states like New York, which gives roughly four times the amount. However, the size of the proposed budgetary increase to the state's current program was not stated in the bill. 

RELATED: Report: On-location film production in LA is moving elsewhere

The bill was introduced by Assembly members Mike Gatto (D-L.A.) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima). Bocanegra said the bill will "go a long way" towards making California more competitive.

"Right now we're getting our lunch handed to us by these other states," Bocanegra said in a statement. "We simply can't sit by and watch this $17 billion a year sector of our economy continue to leave California." 

Gatto told KPCC that he would like to see the program's available tax credits increase from its current $100 million a year. When asked by how much, Gatto said he's waiting to see the state’s revised budget in May. The money for the tax credit program would come out of the state’s general fund.

“We just want something that makes sense, that is big enough to be enough of a break to incentivize productions to stay here, to locate here, to incentivize long-term health of the industry,” Gatto said.

The bill also has the support of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

"It comes at a critical moment, when other states and foreign countries are luring away thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenues that can pay for schools, infrastructure and public services across California," Garcetti said in a statement. "California is forced to turn away hundreds of productions every year because the current incentive is insufficient."

But the bill could face some skepticism in the senate, said Kevin Klowden, a managing economist at the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. That’s because there are key state Senate leaders that are from Northern California and want to make sure their interests are covered, Klowden said.

The new bill offers a 5 percent increase in the tax credit for filming 30 miles outside of the defined “Los Angeles zone,” which may help garner support outside of Los Angeles.

Klowden said he believes the amount of tax credits available each year should at least double to $200 million.

If the bill passes the state Assembly and Senate, it could be signed into law as early as September.

Expanded Film and Television Job Creation Act

This story has been updated.