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California Budget Includes Tax Relief for Film, TV Shoots

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Previous attempts to secure tax credits for film and TV productions were portrayed by opponents as handouts for Hollywood. But those arguments weakened as other states poached jobs from California.

Incentives long sought by the entertainment industry should help keep productions at home. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a former movie actor, has been trying for years to get tax credits to keep California's signature industry at home.

He got his wish early Thursday when the Legislature approved tax credits for film and television productions as part of an economic stimulus provision of the new state budget.

The credits -- capped at $500 million over five years -- are modest compared with those offered by other states.

Still, the announcement was welcome news to many in Hollywood who were skeptical that the Legislature would help the entertainment industry given the enormousness of the task of plugging the state's $42-billion budget gap.

“We applaud the passage of this incentive, which will help make California competitive and not only save jobs that are being lost but generate much-needed revenue for the state," said a joint statement from Hollywood's actors and directors unions and the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which have been lobbying for the credits for a decade.

Previous attempts by Schwarzenegger to secure such credits have been torpedoed by lawmakers who viewed them as a handout to Hollywood. But those arguments weakened amid mounting evidence that other states were poaching jobs from Southern California.

More than 30 states now offer tax credits and rebates to lure production crews to their locales. New York, New Mexico, Louisiana and Michigan have seen a surge in production and jobs since implementing incentive programs, contributing to historic lows in L.A. shoots.

“So much has disappeared, anything we bring back will be a boon," said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., which processes filming permits. The tipping point came last summer when ABC moved production of its sitcom “Ugly Betty" to New York from Los Angeles, creating an uproar among hundreds of crew members.

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