Texans Protest Film Incentive Cut

Change.org petition demands special session to save program

Texans Protest Film Incentive Cut

Texans have got used to legislative special sessions. Whether it's settling the budget, education, or abortion rights, they've become commonplace. But as the Texas Legislature slashes film incentives, there's a call for Gov. Greg Abbott to bring lawmakers back this summer to save the program.

Technically, there is no such thing as the Texas film incentive program. It's actually the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, and it includes film, TV, educational videos, commercials, and gaming. That mixture, originally intended to make the program more robust, may now be its downfall, as the new state budget cuts the fund to a third of its current spending.

House Bill 1 appropriates only $32 million for the program for the 2016-17 biennium, a fraction of the $95 million currently in the kitty. That's also dramatically less than the $70 million Abbott had asked for, or the $60 million the House was suggesting. It's still up from the Senate proposal of zero dollars and zero cents, but it's still devastating news for Texas professionals, dependent on the jobs the program brought in.

Financing the program has always been a tricky proposition. When originally established in 2005, lawmakers didn't actually fund it. That didn't come until 2007, when Gov. Rick Perry was key in securing $22 million, rising to $62 million in 2011. Last biennium, the legislature struck a deal whereby the program would receive a portion of hotel occupancy tax, and that ended up swelling the total take to $95 million over the biennium.

And that's where the tension comes in. The Texas Hotel and Lodging Association has argued that the gaming industry doesn't fill their rooms like the more itinerant film business does, and wanted the program split in two. The Enter­tain­ment Software Association and the Texas Motion Picture Alliance were in broad agreement, but couldn't agree on how the division should be handled. Punishing both, budget builders cut the fund to a sliver of what it was, and now Texas will have an even tougher time keeping productions from moving out of state.

The new low figure came too late for public protests to have any impact in the regular session, which is scheduled to end on June 1. However, there is already a Change.org petition, asking Abbott to bring lawmakers back for a special session to fill the hole they have created.

Sadly, to call this a long shot is to rate its chances higher than they deserve. As a first term governor, Abbott is unlikely to want to bring lawmakers back from their Summer vacation over anything short of a constitutional crisis. However, it's clear that gutting the program has sparked a wildfire of concerns among the state's creative industries.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More 84th Legislature
Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Lecturers Sue to Block Campus Carry
Do Texas concealed handgun rules break the Second Amendment?

Richard Whittaker, July 7, 2016

Texas Supremes: Not Our Job to Fix School Finance
Texas Supremes: Not Our Job to Fix School Finance
Long-awaited ruling says school funding system constitutional

Richard Whittaker, May 13, 2016

More Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program
Numbers Don't Lie, Film Rebates Work
Numbers Don't Lie, Film Rebates Work
Which films and TV shows quit Austin over lack of rebates?

Richard Whittaker, May 25, 2017

<i>American Crime</i> Going Back to Cali
American Crime Going Back to Cali
TV show departs Austin over incentives

Richard Whittaker, June 22, 2016

More by Richard Whittaker
SXSW Film Review: <i>The Day Shall Come</i>
Film Review: The Day Shall Come
British satirist Chris Morris takes aim at security theater

March 16, 2019

SXSW Film Review: <i>Tread</i>
Film Review: Tread
The ugliest, wildest zoning fight ever becomes a trip into madness

March 14, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

84th Legislature, Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, Film Incentives, TMIIIP, TXMPA, Texas Motion Picture Alliance, Enter­tain­ment Software Association, ESA

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle