Cut! TV, film incentives on block
Budget panel rejects request for $3 million.
The tax incentives Colorado uses to lure television and movie productions to the state are poised to ride off into the sunset.
Colorado’s lawmakers rejected a request from Gov. John Hickenlooper to set aside $3 million for film incentives as part of the draft budget bill scheduled to debut Monday.
The move puts the state’s film industry in jeopardy with state economic development officials predicting “a fairly quick pullback” if the money is not reinstated.
The program is the victim of a budget crunch and an ideological divide about the value of economic incentives — one further aggravated by the $5 million in tax breaks Colorado gave to “The Hateful Eight,” a Quentin Tarantino film produced in Telluride that drew a boycott from police associations.
With little discussion, the Joint Budget Committee voted Tuesday to keep the $500,000 in operating budget for the Colorado Office of Film, Television and Media but declined to add the money for the 20 percent cash rebate on production spending, which first started in 2012.
To add to the drama, the vote took place at the same time Hickenlooper told reporters in his office at the Capitol that the incentives were vital to creating jobs and economic activity.
“It does create an industry here — sound engineers, lighting engineers, cameramen — who materially improve our advertising industry and make sure you get a better product, whether you’re advertising for consumer products or new cars or for a nonprofit,” the Democrat said, noting that the subsidies Colorado offers are smaller than what some nearby states provide.
The budget committee — split evenly between Democrats and Republicans — could revisit the decision this week as it looks to finalize the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
But landing the money may prove a long shot. The committee needs to find more than $400 million to balance the budget and pay for the spending items it approved so far, meaning more programs may face cuts.
Stephanie Copeland, the executive director of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, said the incentives mostly go toward small productions films, rather than the blockbusters such as “The Hateful Eight.” And she defended the spending on the movie, saying it helped showcase the state’s production crews and lured other films.
The state’s film office awarded $2 million to 17 projects, according to its 2016 annual report, which helped generate an estimated $17.6 million in economic activity.
“Like any investment that we make … with Colorado taxpayers dollars,” Copeland said, “I view this through a lens of return, leverage and economic return back to the state, … which I think has been shown to be fairly strong.”