Cut! TV, film in­cen­tives on block

Bud­get panel re­jects re­quest for $3 mil­lion.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Frank John Frank: 303-954-2409, jfrank@den­ver­ or @ByJohnFrank

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.”

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