Legislative Wins for Art & Film

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The Governor has signed two bills during the current special session that will greatly benefit Seattle’s arts and culture economy.

I traveled to Olympia to testify in favor of both bills.

One of them I wrote about  in an earlier blog post: SB6574. It allows the City of Seattle to retain admissions tax receipts that would otherwise go to Qwest Field while the Husky Football team plays there during  Husky Stadium’s expansion.

Public art sculpture Black Sun, by Isamu Noguchi, being installed at Volunteer Park, September 1969.

Had this bill not passed, the Husky football game admissions taxes would have stayed with Qwest Field rather than going to the City, as they normally do.  The result would have been an estimated $900,000 to $1 million hole in the City’s budget. About $750,000 of that would have come out of the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, impacting hundreds of arts organizations, arts education programs, artists and audiences.

The bill passed in the Senate 36  to 11 and in the House 96 to 2. The Huskies are expected to be playing in their new and improved stadium in time for next season’s opener.  

The other bill signed by the Governor that Seattle residents and those throughout our sate will benefit from is SB5539. In 2006 the State Legislature created the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program with the intent of maintaining Washington’s position as a competitive location for filming motion pictures, television episodes and television commercials. The Program allows taxpayers that contribute to an incentive fund to receive a credit against their business and occupation tax. Qualifying production companies that film in Washington can apply for payment from the incentive fund, with the total amount of tax credits granted in a calendar year not to exceed $3,500,000.

UW film crew recording at City Light, October 1998.

The program expired in 2011 and was not then renewed by the Legislature. The State House of Representatives Office of Program Research indicated that for each dollar spent in Washington by the film industrmy, $1.99 of economic activity was estimated to be generated throughout the state. Production companies receiving incentive payments spent $36 million in Washington since the beginning of the program through 2009, resulting in a calculated economic impact of $72 million. This impact does not include any potential effects from tourism, nor does it include the lost economic activity that could result from the loss of state revenues through the tax credit.

The bill passed the Senate 40 to 8 and in the House 92 to 6. It was one of the only, if not the only, incentive bills for businesses considered by the Legislature that was supported across the board by organized labor.