Film incentive tax bill again dies on cutting room floor in Tallahassee

film production

A sizable percentage of the 100,000 or so entertainment industry professionals in Florida feel let down this week. The Legislature once again refused to include money in the state’s $80 billion budget for tax incentives to lure Hollywood to film in the Sunshine State.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” said Gus Corbella, chairman of the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council and the director of government law and policy for Greenberg Traurig.

The Regular Legislative Session ended this spring without lawmakers getting a chance to vote up or down on the tax incentives bill sponsored by Venice Sen. Nancy Detert and Winter Park House Republican Jeff Miller.

That legislation would have given the state film commissioner increased ability to grant money quickly and the power to determine the level of quality and economic impact of the projects that receive state money. Corbella said that with the Session beginning earlier than usual, next January, he hoped lawmakers could provide at least $10 million during the Special Session to keep the tax incentives plan alive through the current fiscal year .

However, they were able to find funding for more than $300 million in local projects late Monday night, film incentives weren’t part of that eleventh hour binge.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 39 states had some type of film-incentive program existing in 2014. Florida did not come to the party with a substantial incentive package until 2010, setting aside about $296 million. But that package ran dry by 2014, putting great weight the past two years on the Legislature to approve a new plan to keep Florida competitive with Southern states such as Louisiana and Georgia, prospering in recent years with Hollywood productions.

Opposition was led by Americans for Prosperity, which aired several radio ads linking such a plan to subsidies for sports stadiums, a decidedly unpopular public expenditure these days.

“I think we want every possible industry to come into the state of Florida,” Andres Malave said. “But when an industry’s business model is kind of transient and relies on where they can get the best tax deal, that’s kind of a recipe for disaster.”

“Generally speaking, we don’t think that these sort of incentives are a core role of government,” Malave said. “And so it’s a good thing that the Legislature focused on returning over $400 million to taxpayers so they can spend that money on their own, instead of on an industry that simply just relies on these tax credits, unfortunately.”

Although officials dismiss the power of AFP’s lobbying efforts, most states still offer such incentives. But there’s an increasing backlash about such subsidies, with some states putting additional restrictions on such incentives in recent years. Legislative houses in Alaska, Michigan and Massachusetts have all had votes in the past year to reduce or outright eliminate such tax breaks.

But in California, the home of the entertainment industry, the state Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown agreed last year to triple funding to $330 million, as lawmakers feared that parts of the industry are abandoning that state too often.

The failure to pass such a measure this year may doom the much-heralded film adaptation of the Dennis Lehane penned Ybor City based novel, Live By Night, with Oscar award-winning director Ben Affleck signed up to star and direct the picture.

Dale Gordon, Hillsborough County’s film commissioner, said Thursday that the lack of a tax incentives plan is, “obviously detrimental to us.”

“That was going to get our opportunity to get Ybor City on the international scene,” she lamented.

Meanwhile, Tony Armer, the Pinellas County film commissioner, said a certain project with an “A-list actor and A-list director” attached to film project that was written to take place in St. Petersburg with major studio backing is not coming to the Bay area now without the state incentives. Armer said that contractually he is not allowed to identify the project. He did say he is trying to offer the producers the type of local incentives that Hillsborough County used to lure the producers of The Infiltrator, a Hollywood production starring Bryan Cranston that filmed scenes in the Bay area for one week in April.

Hillsborough County Commissioners passed a resolution in 2014 authorizing $250,000 to Good Films Ltd., the producers of The Infiltrator. This year, both the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissions authorized $100,000 to lure the producers of Tim Burton‘s latest film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, to film scenes in both counties.

Archer said the AFP’s spin that such tax incentives are nothing but a subsidy for wealthy Hollywood producers has hurt the cause to pass a tax incentive package, but that it’s 100 percent inaccurate.

“For every scene that you see (in a film), there’s 100 people standing behind the scene, so if AFP is saying you’re giving money to Hollywood, they’re actually taking money and food out of mouths of Floridians is what they’re actually doing,” he said.

Another arrow that AFP had in their quiver was a report published in January by the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, which said since the state’s tax incentive program began in 2010, only 43 cents in tax revenue is returned for every dollar of tax credits used.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


  • John Lux

    June 18, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Mitch, I need to correct you on something. You said “A majority of lawmakers in Tallahassee, though, didn’t buy potential economic impact derived from such a program.” That’s actually not true. During the regular session, bills for our industry passed favorably out of 6 committees (3 House, 3 Senate) by a vote of 67 – 14. To me, that’s overwhelming support. Your statement is incorrect.

  • Me

    June 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    The AFP are a bunch of morons that knows absolutely nothing about the industry. Our politicians are equally as dumb and not to mention our dumb fearless leader Skeletor Scott is nothing but a crook who swindled his way into office twice when he should be sitting in prison. This could havery brought countless jobs to Florida and fed Floridians not Hollywood, bunch of morons.

  • Annie

    June 18, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    For a state that has over 33 film schools encompassing at least 49 film driven certificates, not including acting and other entertainment industry related subjects, this is truly a slap in the face to the industry here. When comparatively speaking the ROI of .43 is second to California, it speaks volumes to the reality that Florida should be poised to be the Hollywood of the east, instead we are losing out to GA. I don’t feel that enough data was being analyzed to make this assessment. I forsee an exodus of talented individuals in the film and entertainment industry seeking out greater opportunities in other states.

  • Marc Macaulay

    June 21, 2015 at 10:33 am

    The back rooms are where all the deals are made that affect the Florida Film Industry. Lobbyists from A.L.E.C. and A.F.P made sure that this bill had a stake driven through it’s heart. Look up ALEC and you will see how Lobbyists, Corporate CEO’s and Lawmakers receive thousands of dollars legally to change bills and laws in Florida and other states. The game is fixed people. You and I have no voice in Florida Politics as it stands now. You get what you pay for……

Comments are closed.


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