A bill that will comprehensively restructure the way Florida supports its entertainment industry moved forward in the State Senate after successfully clearing a crucial Senate committee vote.
The new division within Enterprise Florida will be renamed as the Division of Film and Entertainment, with revised rules for film tax credit eligibility, the application process, annual allocation and distribution of tax credits, reporting requirements, etc.
Most importantly, the bill extends the incentive program for another four years and expands it to provide $300 million in available tax credits.
Florida‚Äôs film and television incentive program was first created in 2003 as the Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program.
The legislation was intended to be used as a means to promote Florida as a site for production of films, television shows, commercials, digital media and other entertainment productions; and to sustain and grow the workforce, studios and other infrastructure required for the entertainment industry.
The current incentive program began on July 1, 2010 as a six-year program that will expire on June 30, 2016. Over these six years, the program offers a total of $296 million in tax credits, which has already been used up.
If approved, SB 1640 would extend the program through to 2020. It also provides $50 million in additional tax credits for each fiscal year from FY 2014-15 through to FY 2019-20, for a total of $300 million in available tax credits.
SB 1640 was introduced in the State Senate as a committee bill by the Commerce and Tourism Committee, and has just been approved by the Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.
The bill still has a couple of hoops to jump through in the Senate and the House, and then their versions will need to be reconciled. The Florida House version (HB983), filed by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., takes it a whole lot further, offering $200 million per fiscal year from FY 2014-15 onwards.
A report released last month by Film Florida, a non-profit association that promotes Florida‚Äôs film and entertainment industries, says that the incentive program returns back $5 to the State for every $1 in tax credits issued.
According to the report, the incentive program supports $7.2 billion in production spending and induced tourism across Florida, and supports 87,870 jobs with $2.3 billion in labor income.
The report says that 19.5 percent of all visitors to Florida indicated that seeing a television series or film that was filmed in Florida contributed to their decision to visit.
Leah Sokolowsky, president of Film Florida, said the incentive program attracts a significant number of entertainment projects, and in turn, Florida gains direct and indirect jobs, tax revenue, and film-induced tourism dollars.