Tax credit will create local jobs

Cameron Smyth Commentary, Right Here Right Now

Throughout my time in the Legislature, I have worked closely with my colleagues – both Republicans and Democrats – in an effort to stem the flow of runaway film production that takes so many jobs out of our community.

Year after year we continually met roadblocks, but through continued hard work and persistence, we were able to work with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to include a substantial film-production tax credit in this year’s state budget.

The package we passed this week makes available $100 million in annual tax credits for movies and new television series in which at least 75 percent of the production takes place in California.

Production companies would be eligible to receive a tax credit for up to 25 percent of their qualified expenditures on such a project. These are significant savings and precisely what California needs to stem the tide of runaway film production that has driven so many jobs out of state.

Here in our community, the impact of this tax credit will be substantial – reaching not only those who work directly in the film industry, but in a number of related fields.

Hardware stores, dry cleaners and catering companies are just a few of the local businesses that will recognize residual benefits of the film tax credit.

Studios will once again be encouraged to keep their business here in California, an incentive that bodes well for communities like Santa Clarita, which many studios see as an attractive alternative to filming in Los Angeles while remaining within the “30-Mile Zone” that already allows productions to save money.

The city of Santa Clarita Film Office has done a great job of bringing television production to Santa Clarita, even as feature film production continues to leave California.

Local businesses and residential communities have also embraced the film and television industry, working with production companies to encourage filming in our area.

According to the Film Office, location filming has contributed $13.5 million to the Santa Clarita Valley economy over the last seven months. The film tax credit will give the Film Office another incentive with which it can bring high-dollar feature film production back to our community.

This isn’t to say that everything in the budget was good. It wasn’t. Many of you called my offices and expressed your concerns and opposition to the proposed increases in sales, income and gas taxes.

In the end, we were able to eliminate the additional 12 cents per gallon gas tax from the final budget. I don’t believe that raising taxes is appropriate – especially at a time when our economy is slumping and many Californians are out of work – and I voted against those new taxes.

My colleagues on both sides of the aisle also struggled with the difficult votes we had to make when it came to cutting funding for many state programs.

Despite these difficult decisions, and despite the furthering of some economic policies that I find troubling, I want to make sure our community understands that not everything coming out of Sacramento over the weekend was bad.

The film tax credit, along with the single sales factor for large businesses and the new hiring credit for small businesses, demonstrate the Legislature’s commitment to economic stimulus and job creation.

These are areas where Democrats and Republicans have shown an ability to work together in the best interest of our state, and they provide a solid foundation as we continue to rebuild California’s economy.