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FL Senator Seeks $2 Million in Taxpayer Money to Lure Back Film Industry

Republican State Senator Joe Gruters, of Sarasota, wants the Sunshine State to once again make a splash on the big screen.

He is calling for $2 million in rebates to lure the film industry back to Florida, just years after his fellow lawmakers ended a successful movie production incentive program.

“It’s for the purpose of continuing to try to rebuild a program that has been decimated over the years because sunshine and low taxes aren’t enough for us to go out and capture some of these jobs,” says Gruters, who is also head of the Florida Republican Party.

He named top 20 film schools at Florida State University and Ringling College of Art and Design, as well as at Full Sail University in Orlando, and says, “We are producing this top-tier talent, so there’s no reason for us to export our top talent right out of the state as they graduate. People want to film in Florida, but we have to make it so that there is a competitive environment for these studios to decide to choose us.”

Gruters’ program would require film production companies to spend money upfront, and earn incentives for hiring veterans and local graduates. He adds that studies have shown an uptick in tourism when people see certain locations on television.

However, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature slashed the budget of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion organization, by $26 million last year, and required it to lay off 44 employees.

An advocacy group called, “Americans for Prosperity Florida,” which opposes all corporate incentive programs, says past film programs in our state have not resulted in an efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

A 2015 study by Florida’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research noted that the state only received $0.54 for every dollar that was spent on the Entertainment Sales Tax Exemption. Still, cities such as Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville have started their own film industry incentives.

The state Legislature will consider the proposal during its 2020 session, which begins on Tuesday, January 14.