As you may have heard, this cash-strapped state gives away billions annually via tax loopholes—some of them good (because they make your food cheaper), many of them not so good (because do plastic surgeons and private jet owners really need tax breaks?), and many of those not-so-good ones unfortunately lacking an expiration date.
On top of that, and no surprise, the nice and good tax breaks tend to finish last. For example: A relatively small tax break designed to encourage filmmaking in Washington State expired last year because it actually had an expiration date (unlike a lot of the bad tax breaks) and the legislature, facing a never-ending budget shortfall (partly because those bad tax breaks don't have expiration dates) declined to renew it.
This year, SB 5539, which would reinstate the filmmaking tax break—and cost the state about $7 million every two years in rebates to filmmakers (for filmmaking-related economic activity that's estimated to bring in ten times that amount every two years)—made it out of the state senate on a 40-8 vote and is now awaiting its fate in the house.
“I believe it’s very important," said Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), the bill's prime sponsor. “Vancouver—and British Columbia more broadly—really have the market for film and television production because they offer such incredible tax breaks. Oregon is better than us, too.”
For example, Kohl-Welles said, the Twilight movies that have made Forks, WA famous were actually filmed in B.C. and Oregon. “So, even though we benefit from tourists coming to Forks, we don’t get the filming-related jobs here," Kohl-Welles said. "We don’t get the hotels, and restaurants, and catering, and crew here. We could name film after film after film like that.”
Amy Lillard, executive director of Washington Film Works, which administered the program before it was cut off, and is now overseeing audits and paperwork for rebates filed before the loophole expired, says: “With 40 other states with incentives in place, we need this."
Lillard added: "This is a program that has been vetted by the independent economic body of the legislature, which says it is generating money and is working.”
No rebates are given out, Lillard and Kohl-Welles stressed, until filming is over and movie- or commercial-makers have turned in receipts proving their economic impact. Also, even though an expiration date is what did this loophole in to begin with, the proposed bill to re-start the rebates also includes an expiration date: July of 2017.
Will the re-start bill make it through the house this year?
“I’m not a betting woman," Lillard said, "so I’m not going to comment on that.”