If you've watched "Portlandia" or "Grimm" in the past couple of years, you've seen the value of the Oregon Production Investment Fund, which reimburses filmmakers, television productions and others in those industries for some of the cost of doing business here. The fund is largely filled with money from donors who receive tax credits for their generosity.
Now Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to double the $6 million fund and expand the businesses eligible to collect from it. The measure doing that, House Bill 2267, has passed the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee and awaits action by the Joint Tax Credits Committee.
Like tax credits or not, this is one that has paid off for Oregonians, and those supporting HB 2267 say the expansions in it would only increase that benefit. They note that for their $6 million in lost tax revenues in 2011, the projects eligible to collect payments from the fund spent some $110 million in the state. That's roughly $18 for every one of the $6 million.
The measure does more than simply allow the state to give more, however. Currently, projects must spend at least $750,000 to qualify for the offset; the new rules would bump that up to an even $1 million.
The payments are not a favorite with everybody, to be sure. The Oregon Center for Public Policy would like to see the money used to fill in gaps created by the federal budget sequester, though a mere $12 million is not enough to do that.
Meanwhile, for a state that wants visitors and is banking on a future filled with clean industry, the film incentives may be just right. Productions come, spend their money and generally leave without damage to water, air or anything but their own pocketbooks. Without incentives, they tell state officials, most will go somewhere else where incentives are offered — and they're offered in about 40 states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
Incentives are the name of the game these days for everything from data centers to movie companies. The cost of those offered through the Oregon Production Investment Fund is low, while the payout is high. HB 2267 should be approved.