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Oregon’s General Fund and Movies

Sorry about the late post, but for those of you who know me – the Jeep has finally given up the ghost, well, as Gary said, “I’ll help you push it off a cliff when you’re ready.” It’s flying into the abyss even as I write… Now I have to get another vehicle – just when America’s auto industry is in the toilet. Goody.

I suppose I could have railed at the state of the economy and our government’s complicity in the growing debt, but really, who wants to hear it? People here in Oregon should want to hear what’s going on right underneath their noses, and thanks to Chuck Sheketoff over at Blue Oregon, we do have some information about a misuse of general fund dollars in these lean economic times! The Oregon Production Investment Fund was set up by the state to subsidize film/video production in Oregon. Sheketoff’s entire article is enlightening, but the basics can be extracted from highlighting just a few paragraphs… First:

Here’s how it works. For every $100 an individual or corporation donates to the Oregon Production Investment Fund, they get a tax credit out of the General Fund worth $111. Yes, you read it right. Those who donate get back more from the General Fund than they contribute to the earmarked special subsidy fund. Instead of paying taxes that support schools, health and human services and public safety, contributors earmark some money for the film subsidies and then take even more out of the General Fund.

It’s such a great deal for the individuals and corporations who contribute that all of the tax credits are sold out through tax year 2011, and the agency that doles out the subsidies to the movie moguls is asking the legislature to pass SB 621 (PDF) so that they can issue 50 percent more tax credit subsidies.

In other words, rich folks and corporations make an incredible return on their donation, AND the Oregon Production Investment Fund does not have to compete head-to-head with public services, education, health and human services, etc., for General Fund dollars. If a donation occurs, then the state is obligated to pay out our tax dollars to the “investor.” Worse, the governor and his friends are trying to expand this great little deal by 50% – So the second small quotation should seal the deal here:

The proponents of the tax credit think it’s a great deal for Oregon and our economy and have an expensive consultant’s report (PDF) telling them what they wanted to hear to prove it. Yet, they’d rather hide their spending in the intricacies of the tax code than compete head-to-head for General Fund dollars with other public services.

Regrettably, even though Oregonians are going to see public services reduced because the economic crisis has wreaked havoc on state revenues, the Oregon Senate Finance and Revenue Committee yesterday voted in favor of the SB 621 expansion. The three Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the expansion, while the two Republicans voted “no.”

Maybe I took Mr. Smith Goes to Washington too seriously, but I’m optimistic that the full legislature will recognize SB 621 as economic folly and not only refuse to expand the Hollywood subsidy scheme but instead give it the curtain call it deserves.

Please read the article! It’s worth the small amount of time it will take, and I hope it will move you to call your representative to let him know how you feel. I’ll be calling mine! Let’s face it, there are more important things for Oregon right now, and a few million dollars may keep services to a few friends that desperately need it!


Cheers All!

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  1. June 10th, 2009 at 08:06 | #1

    Your information is tweaked. Most of the productions gaining Oregon incentive money are based right here in Oregon so most of the cash stays right here in good ol’ Oregon country. Check out what Michael Fine said courtesy of The Casting Scoop:

    Here’s an update from Michael Fine of the Portland Mayor’s Office of Film & Video:

    Please contact your legislators and tell them you need the work and their yes vote will provide quick, family wage, green jobs. Remind them:

    * No money is given out until AFTER receipts are submitted proving money was already spent in Oregon, so tax revenue returns to the state coffers equal to or in excess of the money spent on the program (based on ECONorthwest studies)

    * We currently only have enough money each year to bring in projects for approximately 6 months, so for the last 6 months of each year, productions take their money and jobs to other states or countries, where the programs are better funded

    * We are not funding Hollywood moguls: 6 of the 18 “OPIF” projects were in fact, Oregon based productions. Of the other 12 projects, 10 were independently financed

    I also received a version of this bulletin from the OMPA and felt it was worth sharing. If you live in Oregon, please do your part!

  2. June 10th, 2009 at 08:47 | #2

    @Jeff Bugbee
    You don’t mention precisely how the information is “tweaked.” The issue really isn’t whether the money stays in Oregon (I’m certain it does), it’s whether the movie fund is competing head to head for general fund tax dollars. In better economic times, I imagine the movie fund would do just fine – but in an economic down turn the movie fund should compete fairly against public services. I believe Chuck Sheketoff’s article makes that clear.

    Thanks so much for your comments.
    Best Regards!

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