Local 695 recently dispatched a delegation to Sacramento to join with delegations from other entertainment industry locals and lobby on behalf of Assembly Bill 1069. Sponsored by Felipe Fuentes (D, 39th District), AB 1069 offers tax credits for productions shot in California. The program provides credits for below-the-line payroll expenditures and only after principal photography has wrapped and the payroll expenses can be verified. Moreover, according to a press release from Assemblyman Fuentes, “The program specifically targets productions that are the most likely to leave the state due to incentives being offered in other states and countries.”
A similar program, enacted in 2009, was scheduled to expire. While not so generous as the incentives offered by some states, the program has nevertheless made a difference. Estimates are that it has resulted in $2.2 billion in production spending in California so far with $728 million going to below-the-line cast and crew. The program has been oversubscribed every year it has been offered so there is a real interest by producers. Since so many entertainment professionals live in California, an enticement doesn’t necessarily need to fully match offers from other states to be attractive.
On September 7, as the bill was being brought to the floor, International Vice President Thom Davis asked locals to send representatives to Sacramento and actively advocate for its passage. Many responded to the call and Locals 16, 44, 50, 80, 122, 700, 705, 728, 729 and 800, as well as SAG, AFTRA, the Teamsters and the Directors Guild, all sent people. Assistant Business Representative Scott Bernard and David Waelder represented Local 695. Tax credits are a difficult sell in lean times and amendments were being considered that might gut the bill’s effectiveness. Foremost among these was a “trigger” measure that would automatically void the credits if tax receipts fell below a predetermined level. No producer would ever commit to a project in return for an uncertain tax credit so this provision would make the program effectively useless. The various delegates met with Ben Golombek, Assemblyman Fuentes’ Chief of Staff, for a strategy session to marshal arguments against this amendment. Then, with a coordinated purpose, the delegates divided into small groups and engaged legislators to encourage their support.
From all reports, the effort was persuasive. Two of the Senators on our list, Ron Calderon (D, 30th District) and Tom Harmon (R, 35th District), took the time to meet with us personally, listen to arguments and ask questions.
After canvassing lawmakers, the delegates took up positions at the entry to the meeting chamber and displayed photos of displaced workers. We’ve heard that many Senators found that to be a strong statement and were also impressed generally by the show of commitment from entertainment locals.
AB 1069 was passed by the legislature without any triggers or other dilutions and signed into law by Governor Brown on October 9. Thom Davis credits the success to “all of us working together, and the continued support from Maria Elena Durazo of the LA County Federation of Labor, and Art Pulaski of the California Labor Federation.” But, the struggle is not over. Although originally written as a five-year tax credit extension, the amended bill extends these credits only one year. We need, as VP Davis reminds us, to continue our efforts to make the “program extend out multiple years so it can truly meet its potential of protecting our members’ jobs.”