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Legislating Celluloid 

by Luke Baumgarten & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he local economy didn't just lose out on $2 million of California money and "100 high-wage jobs," we missed out of a wicked photo op, too. Monday, while the crew at NxNW mulled over the future of its motion picture operation, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a bill designed to make Washington competitive with neighboring states and provinces by offering qualifying film productions rebates of up to 20 percent of the money they spend in Washington (up to $1 million).


It was written directly to stop the hemorrhaging of movie dollars begun by similar programs in other states, like Oregon's "Greenlight Oregon," which offers a rebate of 6.2 percent of wages and a 10 percent discount on goods and services bought in Oregon. The discount only applies to vendors who have opted into the program.


The Washington bill's supporters believe this'll be a victory for the state's film industry. It's certainly one for state Sen. Lisa Brown, who was the main sponsor of the bill. She was all set to bask in the limelight. "Originally we had planned to sign the bill in Spokane," says Brown. Because of the labor dispute, however, the governor signed it in Olympia. Brown remains steadfast in her belief that this will send lots of that Hollywood cash our way -- if, that is, local production companies manage to stay in the motion picture business. The bill had bipartisan support, passing both the state House and Senate by wide margins.


In mid-March, the Idaho legislature passed a similar bill that would ratchet back all sales and use taxes for production companies that spend more than $200,000 in the state (though applying for the tax break costs $500). The AP reports that, in order to qualify, productions would need to pay their workers between $11 and $125 per hour (though the logic for capping wages escapes us). The bill is now awaiting Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's signature.
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