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Big Money, Big Money

Film incentives see massive boost

By Richard Whittaker, May 31, 2013, Screens

Good news from the Legislature for Texas-based filmmakers and game developers: The Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program is getting a massive financial boost, tripling the amount of money available over the next two years to $95 million. The program's fairy godmother, Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, says filmmakers and game developers have hotel owners to thank.

The TMIIIP is designed to keep Texas competitive with other film-producing states that offer incentives, but it was always limited by small cash reserves. Two years ago, lawmakers slashed the funds available to $32 million. When they passed the state's new biennial budget over the weekend, the investment in the incentives had soared to a new high. Dukes explained that the negotiations had been complex. When the House first started running the numbers, she only proposed $22 million for 2014-15, saying she took "a conservative approach, because we knew there were so many conservatives." However, the Senate was considering not simply restoring the fund to pre-cut 2009 levels, but actually raising it slightly to $70 million. When the two chambers finished negotiations, there was a total of $95 million in the kitty. Dukes credited the Texas Motion Picture Association and her fellow lawmakers for understanding the program's value, but said the key was the Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, which lobbied lawmakers to allocate $68 million generated by the Hotel Occupancy Tax. Dukes said, "Having film production in Texas created heads in beds, and therefore they felt that it was in their best interest to put up a small percentage of the tax."

Timeline of Texas Production Incentives

2005: The Texas Legislature passes Senate Bill 1142, creating the Film Industry Incentive Program. However, they do not fund it.

2007: Rep. Dawnna Dukes, D-Austin, authors House Bill 1634, renaming the incentives as the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, and extending it to cover video games and digital media. The Legislature finally funds the program with $22 million for the 2008-09 biennium.

2009: Dukes authors HB 873, adding educational and instructional videos to the list of eligible projects, dropping the minimum qualifying spend for TV and film, and boosting incentives for productions in historically underutilized areas like East Austin. The Legislature ups the biennial budget to $62 million.

2011: As part of dramatic statewide budget cuts, the program's budget is cut to $32 million.

2013: Lawmakers allocate a record $95 million.

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