Sen. De León says he supports expanding California's film tax credit

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León says he supports expanding film tax credit

Senate President Pro Tem elect Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) sought to assure Hollywood on Wednesday that he was committed to expanding California's film and TV tax credit program.

On Tuesday, De León had alarmed many of his constituents in the entertainment community when his chief of staff sent an email to industry lobbyists highlighting his boss' reservations about expanding the current program, particularly the lottery system that is used to allocate $100 million annually to productions.

But on Wednesday, De León, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, emphasized that he would work with his colleagues to expand and improve the program.

“In the interest of protecting good jobs and safeguarding one of our signature industries, I’ve long been an outspoken champion for California’s film and television tax credit and I’m 100% committed to passing an extension and expansion of that credit this year," he said in a statement. "At the same time, having had exhaustive conversations with industry leaders and workers about the effectiveness of the current program, there seems to be growing consensus that the program can and should be strengthened to better ensure its primary objective of job creation and retention."

A bill to expand the film tax credit by increasing funding to more than $400 million a year and allowing more projects to qualify has so far drawn wide support in Sacramento. 

In May, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved the bill, AB 1839, sponsored by Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima). The Senate Governance and Finance Committee gave its support on June 25. The bill goes before De León's Senate committee on Monday, where a vote will likely be delayed to allow time for negotiations.

De León did not specify what changes he would like to see in the bill, but people familiar with negotiations say he favors an alternative to the current lottery system and would like to see more weight given to projects that hire the most workers.

Another big question is how much money lawmakers will add to the program. While Gatto and Bocanegra are said to favor increasing funding to as much as $420 million a year to match New York's incentive program, Gov. Jerry Brown supports doubling funding to $200 million a year, sources says. Ultimately, the funding is expected to be somewhere in between those figures.

"In the remaining month of this Legislative session, I will work with my colleagues and stakeholders across the spectrum to make a good program even better – and I have every hope and confidence that we will deliver a smarter, stronger program that will keep the cameras rolling in our state for years to come," de León said.

Staff writer Marc Lifsher in Sacramento contributed to this report.

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