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As California Extends Filmmaker Tax Credits, Kansas Kills the Arts

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 1, 2011 at 5:1AM

How was your Memorial Day weekend? If you're a California filmmaker, it was swell. And if you're a Kansas artist, it was beyond lousy.
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How was your Memorial Day weekend? If you're a California filmmaker, it was swell. And if you're a Kansas artist, it was beyond lousy.

Over the weekend, Kansas became the nation's only state without an arts agency. Meanwhile, California -- a state that has routinely faced budget shortfalls -- granted a five-year extension to its tax credit program for television and film productions.

Here's a rundown of what happened:

In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback nixed state funding for arts programs, leaving the Kansas Arts Commission with no budget. In response to the veto, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, issued a statement over the weekend criticizing the move. "His action not only robs the citizens of his state of access to quality arts programming, but is also a direct affront to his campaign platform to create jobs and rebuild the state’s economy," he wrote. Lynch also pointed out that the nonprofit arts and culture organizations in Kansas currently support 4,612 full-time jobs that generate $95.1 million in household income. It's not clear how many of those jobs can remain with no state budget to support it.

[Hat tip: LA Times' Culture Monster]

Meanwhile, on the west coast:

Over in California, the State Assembly passed a bill to extend their film and television tax credit program for five more years. It was approved by a vote of 72-1 and next moves to the state Senate, where a vote will take place later this summer. The bill would provide an additional $500 million in funding for the incentive program that offers filmmakers a tax credit equivalent to 20%-25% of qualified production expenses. According to the California Film Commission, so far the program has generated 31,000 jobs and $2.2 billion in production spending.

[Hat tip: The Hollywood Reporter]

Southern California Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, who introduced the bill, told a reporter: "With the state's unemployment rate hovering around 12%, we need this incentive to keep hundreds of thousands of Californians employed. Extending the incentive program will prevent production companies from moving their projects, jobs and spending out of California."

One small note of optimism: Kansas does offer a generous (although neither transferable nor refundable) 30% tax credit for filmmakers through the Kansas Film Commission, which is entirely separate from the (now-nonexistent) Kansas Arts Commission.

[Brian Brooks and Dana Harris contributed to this article]