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February 08, 2011 12:50 AM UTC

A Fine Idea, But...

  • by: Colorado Pols

The AP reports on a bill introduced last Friday by two Republicans, Sen. Nancy Spence and Rep. Tom Massey–yell “stop” when it gets weird:

Movie tickets would cost 10 cents more under a proposal by two Colorado Republicans to raise incentive money for film productions.

House Bill 1207 would add a dime to movie tickets starting in July, with the money designated for the Colorado Office of Film, Television & Media. That office offers tax incentives to try to attract film and television productions to Colorado…

We understand the double-take. What we’ve got here is two Republicans…proposing a fee increase…to fund a government program, right? Now, don’t get us wrong, there is much evidence to suggest that investment in bringing TV and motion picture business to the state nets a very favorable economic return–orders of magnitude over what’s invested. Adjacent states like New Mexico have robust incentive programs to attract movie and television production.

But after Republicans have spent the last two years one step short of pitchforks and torches in their insistence that any such higher fee amounts to a “tax increase” unconstitutional under TABOR…well, what gives, folks? It’s not like the ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court saying they’re wrong has altered their tune a bit, at least not on the stump.

Either Massey and Spence are due great praise for blazing a trail to disposal of an arsenal of defeated “tax hike” talking points, or they’ve got some intra-caucus ‘splaining to do.


58 thoughts on “A Fine Idea, But…

      1. But I’m sure I’ll buy you a new one with all those dimes added to my movie tickets.

        (They still can’t have you back though. I can definitely take Massey and Spence in a no holds barred cage match if it comes down to it, and don’t think I won’t throw down an old-fashioned glove slap and demand satisfaction if they get too close.)

  1. was the source of all liberal evil so they not only have to ‘splain why some new or increased fees aren’t illegal Tabor busting tax raises but they also need to ‘splain why they are for inviting all that sex, drug and liberal politics evil into our family values midst. I mean illegal taxes disguised as fees and Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen?  

  2. …if they use all the other Film incentive bills, the idea is that anyone doing production in Colorado gets to apply for a transferable tax credit.

    THAT’S something that the Repubs like.

    The danger is that this bill needs to include commercials and not just movies and TV shows. New Mexico made that mistake, and they’ve missed out on a lot of bizniz….

    (BTW, I fully support this. I would get a nice slice of bizniz if I could do pre-viz, or if they finished the productions here in Colorado and I would get some EFX or finishing work.)

  3. It’s an “incentive.” (I know, I know. What a load of horse manure.)

    That’s what it will be called. All about the framing, isn’t it?  

      1. ANY increase in revenue=tax increase. If they had their way they would restrict, ratchet and refund every dime. They said it about the mill levy freeze, FASTER, and every one of the tax credit repeals.

        And then there’s Massey and Spence, mucking up the works…

        1. Think “movie tax.” If a Democrat was behind this bill, you’d be hearing it!

          In the real world, the CO Supremes have settled the question. Fees are not taxes.

          1. there’s an understandable connection between FASTER or 911 fees and the activity they’re supporting. What does my purchase of a movie ticket have to do with luring a TV show production to Colorado?

  4. In the early 80’s several TV shows were filmed here: Perry Mason, Diagnosis Murder, and Father Dowling Mysteries are ones I remember off the top of my head. I inadvertently ended up in a Perry Mason scene as part of the back ground when they were filming an outdoor scene. I am in a similar scene in What to do in Denver when you’re dead.

    Dynasty was set here, but actually filmed in LA. At least they did use Denver/Colorado images for the opening credits.

    I always assumed there had been a tax incentive to attract those production firms here and that it must have been taken away since very little production happens here now.

    1. from an acquaintance who worked in the Denver mayor’s office on the filming in and around Denver, next to nothing is available to actually attract and accomodate companies here. Some merely just end up here, for whatever reason. These companies drop a lot of bucks into the local economies. As weird as this Republican move is, it’s a welcome poke in the eye to all TABORistas, and it should be supported.

      1. New Mexico is called Tamalewood for a reason. Along with Michigan, they have the most generous tax incentives, credits, breaks, whatever you can imagine.

        Consider this – you can digitally alter a scene any way you want these days. It’d be nice to get a shot of a particular location for the actual shoot, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

        Here’s the inhouse CBS effects reel – see how much of Ugly Betty is done on a soundstage?

        So, again, the first thing a location scout is going to do is check the tax climate for each of the desired shot locations. If there isn’t one, it’s usually scratched off the list before he leaves the studio.

        So, if we want movies (and commercials, even more important) to be shot here, and pump all that money into the economy, we need a film incentive package.

        1. Not for us regular folks, but ten cents a pop for porn movies.

          Raise money for the porn film industry. Colorado’s salvation.

          Brings a whole new meaning to the word “money shot.”

    1. how this “fee” skirts TABOR restrictions (it sounds like a 10 cent tax only tangentially connected to what it’s supposed to be funding), I’ll agree with you.

      Looked at from outside the bipartisan bubble, this sounds like an entirely regressive tax — seriously, the dollar theater patron pays the same as the IMAX patron? — levied on hard-working state residents to hand over to well-heeled business interests.

      (On the other hand, I’m all in favor of an SSG_Dan Full Employment Act — but how about taxing cable and satellite bills or the sales of widescreen TVs, since those activities have more to do with his work than movie tickets do?)

      I’m sure there are plenty of industries that would come to Colorado and spend some money if we gave them incentives, but this doesn’t sound like a very rational approach to attracting business, it sounds like a stunt.

  5. As a Film Director, politico, Democrat and Capitalist… I don’t think this bill is a good idea

    Ultimately, I am not convinced film productions will flock to Colorado, thus making this “10 cent” tax an additional burden on Colorado movie-goers, that may not even cultivate the funds necessary to build a real film industry in Colorado – more importantly, levied taxes often become bigger taxes… today, moviegoes will pay a humble, additional, 10 cents on every ticket for Hollywood productions to come to Colorado… but tomorrow, they’ll be paying 2 dollars on every ticket for Pre-Kindergarten programs in Denver…

    If Spence and Massey want to go after revenue, perhaps they should consider raising severance taxes and putting those toward film?

    As a film director, the three places I look to for production are as follows –

    1. NEW MEXICO – great State! They give 25% to every budget, and more importantly, they have an EXCELLENT work force that’s trained for filmmaking, as well as great facilities

    2. PUERTO RICO – they give 40% towards film budgets – their crews are still being cultivated, but with an incentive around 40%, such things will come in time

    3. Isle of Man (near England) – CinemaNX and the Isle of Man, if they like your script/cast, will pay for the entire movie, to my best knowledge, as long as its under $15 million, and provided that they get ownership of all UK distribution rights – it’s an excellent deal

    With that in mind – if you can’t compete with the above three, then you’re likely imposing an unnecessary tax on the populace that will cultivate little benefit

    I would LOVE to see a robust film industry in Colorado, but……..

    We must remember that certain States are made for certain activities – Colorado’s best industries will always be agriculture, tourism, and energy – and business stimulus should probably go towards expanding those entrenched industries

    New Mexico, Puerto Rico, and to an extent, the Isle of Man, all boast great temperatures and dry climates, with little percipitation – all factors needed for a good film industry, thus, their investment in such an industry ends up paying dividends – Colorado, I’m afraid, may be swimming against the tide, in competing for such an industry

    I hope I’m wrong?

    But certainly… I don’t think Massey and Spence are taking the necessary steps to prove me wrong

    1. …to the count of 400 since the first film was shot here in 1897 (“Festival of the Mountain & Plain.”) Colorado Springs was the home to one of the largest production studios outside of Hollywood (Alexander Film Co) and Denver is home now to two of the major design and production studios (Ms K and !mpossible Pictures.) Starz Encore is a MAJOR cable network that does tons of original production. And a major ad agency (Cripsin Porter + Bogousky)has an office in Boulder.

      But because of the lack of tax incentives, most of their shooting and post is done out-of state. Starz does almost all of their shooting in New Mexico, thought they do finish in their studios in Parker.

      We could be the go-to location for commercials (esp car commercials)because of the fair weather, good lighting and urban locations that work very well for a national audience. One Honda commercial was shot entirely in Denver Highlands and the Speer I-25 bridge!

      But no tax incentives, no shooting. No shooting, that means no editing, no audio sweetening, no DI, no effects work – it all goes to other states.

      We have the talent here in Colorado, and we have the post-production infrastructure to support a robust film industry – why do we have to let it go to New Mexico?

      1. Dan – I would love to see a great film industry in Colorado – I’m not arguing that

        That said – if Colorado were to compete with New Mexico, it would take far more leadership and unity than what is being demonstrated by Spence and Massey

        In examining what Governor Bill Richardson did to build New Mexico to the film capital it is today, the steps as follows –

        1. MAJOR INCENTIVE – Offering a 25% incentive to all major film productions

        2. LOCAL TALENT – Creating an incentive, in which, 40% is paid back to productions for the salaries of LOCAL talent and crew – this incentive, alone, encouraged a high amount of local hires, which was very intelligent

        3. UPFRONT MONEY – this one is big – New Mexico has a program, in which, they’ll loan up to $15 million to a film, with the agreement that the money doesn’t have to be paid back for 5 years – in turn, movies made in New Mexico, basically, can be paid for from the profits realized by the film – it’s an intelligent program that has brought them many productions

        4. TRAINING – a local IASTE labor union was set up, mainly for the purpose of training people to become Electrics, Grips, and Technicians on film sets – in turn, the IASTE of New Mexico, in my opinion, has been great, as its trained many people — in turn, New Mexico’s current crews are mostly locals, thus creating a strong local connection

        When you examine comparable programs in Michigan, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Puerto Rico, yes, they gave great incentives, but the rest of their efforts pale, imo, in comparison to what Richardson did above – by doing everything above, especially the labor union connection, Richardson has guaranteed that NM becomes a bastion of film production, rather than a pitstop that provides little benefits to locals

        My point in writing all of this?

        New Mexico is in the position it is in today because Governor Richardson, from the Governor’s seat, spearheaded everything above – the comparison to Colorado, where only two State Legislators are working for something similar? Sadly, I don’t think Spence and Massey’s efforts will go far, without open help from Hickenlooper

        Lastly – if I were the Governor of Colorado, I would be hesitant to support such an industry – again, Colorado is great for tourism, agriculture, and energy – giving stimulus to those industries, imo, is what’s best for Colorado

        Nonetheless – Dan, you are correct that Colorado has attracted some great film institutions – I’m still not convinced that stimulus towards the industry is Colorado’s best choice though

  6. Hi,

    I think CP is siting the wrong case? Ritter v. Barber is more relevant than Mesa County.

    This ruling is a nonstop contradiction and their true intent is clear, protect government operations.

    The final notes go so far as to completely contradict the ruling.

    ” Fees are taxes if they are above and beyond the cost of service and if they significantly defray cost of general fund expenditures.”

    Sweeping 100M from cash fund does most certainly defray cost by the tune of 1.8%.

    Also the original intent of collection was for a fee however Ritters intent was most certainly not a fee but a tax. Apply this ruling to Ritters intent/outcome and you will see the error of this biased, senile court.

    The Supreme Court is made of men, not Gods. The Supreme Court decisions must be challenged and corrected when required.

    1. Colorado Pols is citing the wrong case rather than siting the wrong case.

      Read and study Ritter v. Barber.

      Now compare this with Webster definition of fee and tax.

      The Supremes have attempted to redefine the English language in an attempt to create a TABOR loophole.  A voter approved tax increase would have been the moral choice.

      1. 15. Although Petitioners do not raise this issue, we note that a statutory charge may be labeled a fee, but in effect be a tax, if the statutory rate of the charge is unreasonably in excess of the cost of services the charge is designed to defray. The rate of fees imposed on users must bear some reasonable relationship to the cost of services provided. See Western Heights Land Corp., 146 Colo. at 468, 362 P.2d at 158; see also Marcus, 170 F.3d at 1311-12. However, as our precedent indicates, assuming that the rate of fees imposed bears some reasonable relationship to the cost of services provided, the fact that some funds will reach the General Fund, only incidentally defrays general governmental expense.

          1. When Ritter swept cash fund, was his intent to tax the cash fund or fee the cash fund? When Ritter swept the cash fund was intent to defray general fund operating cost?

            Here is reality. Tabor has place serious constraints on government and they will do and say anything to get away from Constitutional imposed restraints.

            Let us call a tax a tax and get on with this.

            Repeal the requirement to ask voters OR start asking the voters.

            This is real simple folks.

            Let us stop using the Supremes as a vehicle to lie to oursevles.

    2. Mesa County v. Colorado:

      Inside the Capitol, TABOR’s requirement of a vote of the people on any “tax policy change directly causing a net tax revenue gain” is famous. Until this week, lawmakers had assumed it meant anything that brought in even a penny required voter approval.

      But the justices defined it in the context of another famous part of TABOR, which limits state revenue growth to the rates of inflation plus population growth. To take the “tax policy change” language at face value would eliminate the need for the inflation-plus-population formula, the justices said. Therefore, the Supreme Court in the future will say a vote is needed only for tax changes that bring state revenue above the inflation-plus-population limit.

      I think you like Ritter v. Barber because it gives you more room to quibble. Mesa County v. Colorado doesn’t.

        1. You’re not wrong about the cases, but you’re also not right to exclude Mesa County v. Colorado. This case dealt with much more than mill levies, it made conclusive judgments on “tax policy changes” (see story).

          It’s clear you don’t like the decision, but it was the decision, and it is applicable.

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