Tomorrow is the deadline to cast your primary ballot in Washington State. While there are many important initiatives and candidates to consider, Washington Filmworks continues to closely watch the race for Governor, as the future of the production incentive may be at stake.  It is no coincidence that the most successful and competitive state production incentive programs in the nation have a supportive Governor at the helm, one who understands that these programs are currently the best tools a state has to win motion picture business.

Today Washington’s Attorney General, Rob McKenna, spoke with Steve Scher from KUOW about his ongoing campaign to be our state’s next Governor.  Although the Attorney General has not made his position about the production incentive program public, his on air comments this morning may be of interest to the statewide film industry.

During the interview, McKenna spoke at length about the importance of reviewing tax preferences, and praised the legislature for cutting some preferences during the last legislative session.  He also commented that the legislature approved more tax preferences than they cut, which ultimately increased the overall state budget, and concerned the Attorney General.

When host Steve Scher asked the question, “Which ones were those [tax preferences added] that you didn’t like?” Attorney General McKenna responded, “I’m just saying that they created new ones.  I think one of them was for a tax preference to encourage Hollywood film production in our state. You know, if we are going to be disciplined about reviewing existing tax preferences and eliminating those that don’t make sense for the state, we ought to be careful about creating new ones as well because they are a kind of expenditure.”

Considering his response, it is unclear what McKenna’s exact position is on the production incentive program, although he does indicate some confusion about the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program.  To clarify, it is not a “new tax preference,” but rather a program that has a five-year history of creating economic development opportunities for the state.  Since launching the program in February 2007, a total of 81 projects have been approved for funding assistance through Washington Filmworks, including 33 feature films, 5 television projects and 43 commercials.  These projects have brought an estimated $76M in direct spending to our statewide economy.

In addition, the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program underwent a rigorous review by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC).  The report from JLARC, published in December 2010, recommended that the program be renewed because “the tax credit for contributions to the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is achieving the objective of maintaining Washington’s position as a competitive location for filming.”

Washington Filmworks welcomes the opportunity to speak with Attorney General McKenna and his team in greater detail about the economic contributions the film industry has made statewide.  The vigilance of the Washington film community is directly responsible for the vote in support of E2SSB 5539, which took place during the 2012 legislative session and renewed the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program.  The overwhelming votes in favor of the legislation (92 to 6 in the House and 40 to 8 in the Senate) are evidence that the film industry has a strong voice in the state and staunch support from the legislature.

Your political activism remains vitally important to the wellbeing and sustainability of our state film industry.  We encourage you to listen to the full interview with gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna, and to make informed decisions in the Washington State primary.  Mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than 8 PM Tuesday, August 7.  Please don’t delay. Make sure your voice continues to be heard.