MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

March 18, 2014

Senate panel passes bill for $5M in film rebates


— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)  —  A $5 million annual rebate program that has been used to attract producers of films like last year’s “August: Osage County” to Oklahoma would continue for another ten years under a bill that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Finance Committee voted 7-2 for the Compete with Canada Film Act, which now heads to the full Senate, where it is expected to pass and head to the governor’s desk.

Under the program, Oklahoma provides rebates to filmmakers of $1 for every $3 they spend on movie productions in Oklahoma, up to a total of $5 million annually.

The $5 million cap has been reached in each of the past three years.

Supporters say 46 other states offers similar rebates and that Oklahoma needs to continue the program to compete with other states to attract lucrative film productions.

“The money doesn’t go to pay for a movie star’s salary,” said Deby Snodgrass, executive director of the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department.

 “It goes to things like electricians and beauticians and carpenters and backhoe drivers.”

By extending the rebate for another ten years, the state will ensure the stability of the program and have a better chance of luring a television series, Snodgrass said.

“They don’t want to come, get set up and then have the rebate go away in the middle of the series,” Snodgrass said.

But lawmakers who oppose the bill said the program is a wasteful use of tax dollars, especially when the Legislature already has about $188 million less to spend this year on state programs.

Rep. David Dank, a longtime critic of the program, said the jobs associated with film production are typically short-term hires.

“This is taxpayer money,” he said. “If they’re creating fulltime, quality jobs that’s one thing. But other than that, they’ve got to prove to us that the benefits outweigh the costs to the taxpayer, and I don’t think they’ve done that.”