Lawmakers set aside $50M in funding for Texas film incentives program

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A program in Texas that promotes film, television and video game productions in the state got a boost in the state budget that lawmakers sent to the Governor this year. 

Legislators appropriated $50 million for the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program, which provides productions the chance to get a cash grant based on how much they spend in Texas, including eligible wages paid to the state’s residents.  

“There’s already been rumblings,” Mindy Raymond, communications director for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance, said. “The interest has always been there for Texas, but now it’s ramped up even more because it’s giving those productions that may not have looked at Texas an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, I can come here and actually shoot my T.V. series or my film, bring my company here and get a little bit of money back from the state.’” 

Funding for the program has fluctuated over the years. In 2009, the legislature set aside $62 million. In 2013, lawmakers set aside $95 million for the program and its administration for the 2014-15 biennium. In both 2015 and 2017, the program received around $32 million. 

“There’s a direct correlation between how much money is appropriated for our incentive program versus how much money is spent in the state,” she said. “So when we did have that higher appropriation of $95 million, there was a huge jump in the in-state spending in Texas. It was astronomical.” 

Raymond, who is also the president at New Republic Studios in Elgin, says this program benefits smaller towns across Texas.  

“Our return on investment is about $5.33,” she said. “Those smaller communities were not expecting that inflow of cash or that economic boost to happen and it does. It’s a win-win for them.” 

“I’m always pushing people to Elgin, Bastrop or Smithville – for locations, accommodations, catering, coffee shops, all the stores that they would need for productions,” she added. “We push them further east as opposed to going west to Austin because we know that drives businesses for those communities.” 

However, some believe the program should be abolished. 

“The success of a business or an industry should depend basically on two things: the demand for their products or services and the value they bring to consumers or customers,” Carine Martinez, a senior policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-leaning policy group, said. 

Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used for industry incentive programs, Martinez said.

“It’s taking more of taxpayer’s money and it’s basically forcing them to fund an industry over and over,” she said. “That’s when government picks winners and losers.” 

Rep. Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, also filed legislation this session to abolish the Music, Film, Television and Multimedia Office in the Office of the Governor and the Moving Image Industry Incentive Program. However, it never received a hearing in the Culture, House Recreation and Tourism Committee. 

So far, no action has been taken on House Bill 1, the budget bill. Gov. Greg Abbott has until June 16 to decide on what bills he will sign or veto. 

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