Chad Burris is working the phones. He’s talking to clients on the east and west coasts, and he’s trying to get a handle on the mood of lawmakers who could decide the fate of several film projects his group has worked to secure for more than a year.
Burris, with Indion Entertainment Group, is like many business owners taking notice of a small action at the Capitol last week that could have a big impact. The Tulsa-based group works with studios to arrange for shooting movies in Oklahoma. Movies in the pipeline to come to Oklahoma may stall if lawmakers take away tax credits — especially those allowing filmmakers and investors to take 20 to 30 percent tax credits for investing in local projects. "I’m on pins and needles,” Burris said. "I don’t know what to tell my people. It’s not like you take a big film project and say, ‘You have to be here now.’ They have to work around their stars’ schedules.” Lawmakers are considering ending some tax credits as a way to recoup state revenue in a year when state agencies could see deep cuts and budget crafters are working to fill a $1.2 billion hole. Last week, a bill to do away with the Rural Small Business Capital Credit and the Small Business Capital Credit passed out of a Senate conference committee. These tax credits can be helpful to the film industry. A similar bill failed to get enough signatures to get out of a House conference committee. Ending the tax credits for the 2011 budget year could bring in about $56.1 million, according to a budget proposal by Gov. Brad Henry. The 2011 fiscal year begins July 1. For the budget, Henry proposed eliminating the tax credits that reward investors for projects in rural Oklahoma and small businesses. The credits were targeted because both programs are large and "lacked essential accountability mechanisms to ensure that actual economic benefit was worth the state tax credit investment,” said Paul Sund, spokesman for Henry. "Concerns had been raised about whether the state was getting the best bang for its buck on the programs,” Sund said.