Spin Control

WA Lege Day 37: Motion picture exemption passes

OLYMPIA – Motion Picture State Tax Exemption, take 2. And, action.

The Senate again approved the extension of a tax break for movies and television shows shot in Washington. The exemption, first offered in 2002, expired last year because the House failed to act on it last session, after it was approved in the Senate. On Tuesday, the Senate sent it back to the House on a vote of 40-8.

Supporters said the exemption is needed by the state's film industry, which includes production companies like North by Northwest in Spokane, as well as cameramen, actors and makeup artists. It’s difficult for them to compete for work when 44 other states offer some sort of incentive.

It also helps tourism by showing Washington locales, Sen. Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline said, at a time when the state's tourism budget for advertising has been cut.

Opponents like Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, said some tax breaks have to go because of the state's budget problems, and the return on investment is far less than many other exemptions.

But Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, who wrote the original legislation to offer tax breaks to the film industry a decade ago, said the bill involves a tax credit the state carefully scrutinizes to ensure accountability for jobs.

"We are sustaining jobs," Brown said. "It adds to the diversity of our economy to help the arts."

The bill now returns to the House. Last year it got caught in "end game dynamics" which supporters hope it will avoid this year, she said.

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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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