By: Lela Checco, Crafty Craft Services, LLC
PAFIA Board Member
On Tuesday, February 5th, 2019, I hit the road and headed for Harrisburg to explore, learn, and make my voice heard. It was my first trip to our state capitol as a professional union worker, and I was very excited. But I’ll admit it: I was also very nervous. I felt out of my element and had butterflies in my stomach the whole time!
But despite those butterflies, I got a lot accomplished on my trip. I toured the Capitol Building and, along with Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA) board members David Haddad and Courtney Gumpf, met with PAFIA lobbyist Jim Davis, to get a better understanding of how he interacts with our legislators on an issue that is very close to my heart - filming TV and movies in PA.
I learned a great deal from Mr. Davis and was inspired to do everything I can to help our cause. And later that evening, I took a big step toward that goal, when we sat down to dinner with a senator and his staff. We had a lovely meal, and I put a lot on the table: myself.
I once read somewhere that “people forget the facts but never forget a good story.” So, I went with that and told the senator *my* story, to give him a glimpse of what it’s like working in the film industry in PA. I explained what my career in Craft Services involves and regaled him with stories about providing on-set food and beverages to the cast and crew. I told him how I pride myself on using local businesses as much as possible and emphasized how I’ve seen small businesses grow from my interactions with them, from hitting higher sales goals and acquiring new equipment to expanding their operations, creating physical storefronts and food trucks from social media posts, and much more.
I also described how my own career has grown, due, in large part, to the resources I’ve found in Pennsylvania. I was born and raised and received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in the Keystone State; and, after a brief stint in California in the early-2000’s, have worked here for well over a decade. I’m now on my way to owning my own food trailers, which, as I told the senator, is only possible because of the connections I’ve made with Pennsylvania businesses through my work in film.
The senator was glad to see how “PA proud” I am and seemed impressed with everything I shared about my connections and interactions with local businesses - and I’m glad that I told my story and demonstrated how the film industry has grown and worked hand-in-hand with other industries to help them grow and make our state’s economy, and residents, thrive.
But mine is not the only story to be told. You’ve got a story too. Tell it! You may not have the time, energy, or money to make it to the capitol. But you can still make your voice heard. Call or email your senator to tell them *your* story. Let them know who you are, what you do, and how it affects the businesses around you.
We have an amazing crew here, and Pennsylvania is our home. The Tax Credit for PA is very important to us, and hopefully it will be raised to a higher limit to keep our family together. So, please, do your part. Stay informed... and keep your representatives informed.
For the first time in a long time, Pennsylvania has an on-time budget. Well in advance of the June 30 deadline, lawmakers and the Wolf administration announced that they had reached agreement on a $32.7 billion budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, which is $560 million more than the current year's spend total (a 2% increase).
The General Appropriations Bill, House Bill 2121, passed the House in a 188-10 vote last Wednesday and the Senate in a 47-2 vote on Friday. Late Friday evening the bill was signed by the Governor and reflects an increased amount of education funding; providing an additional $100 million for basic education, $20 million more for pre-K counts, $5 million more for Head Start, $15 million more for special education, $25 million more for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, and a $30 million increase for the career and technical education appropriation in the Department of Education. The budget will also increase funding to the State System of Higher Education and state related universities by 3%. Another $70 million is dedicated toward school safety ($10 million of which will be allocated to an existing safe schools initiative), which became a priority for lawmakers this year following the mass school shootings in Florida and Texas. There is also more funding to help people with intellectual disabilities receive services and funding to help combat the state's opioid crisis by granting 800 more families access to evidence-based home visit services.
The film tax credit remained funded at $65 million. The good news is that an on-time budget means film tax credit applications for projects won't be delayed in being reviewed/approved due to budget delay.
The House and Senate are now adjourned for the summer, returning in September. Looking forward to next summer (2019), expectations are already being set for a late budget - well past June 30.
May 31 is here. June starts tomorrow. Place your annual state budget bets now: on time or late? Changes to the program or not? Your 30-day clock starts tomorrow. Good luck!
With the annual pilgrimage to state budget bliss begins, please pray for state revenues to exceed expectations resulting in a surplus. Notwithstanding that scenario, expect state budget spending to be slightly above the current year's $32 billion budget. As previously reported, the Governor proposed increasing the annual allocation to $32.9 billion, representing an increase of nearly $1 billion. During the days and weeks leading up to June 30th, PAFIA will be actively advocating for an increase in the annual film tax credit allocation. This continued outreach to various members of the General Assembly (House & Senate, Republican & Democrat) has been an integral part of PAFIA's government relations strategy and advocacy. It allows for PAFIA leadership to routinely be introduced to new members of the legislature, as well as outreach to elected officials who have been in office for years. PAFIA will be coordinating with many stakeholders, including the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Film Offices, to increase to the $65 million film tax credit allocation.
PAFIA is very appreciative for the support that legislators and the Governor have for the program, but feel it is a very good time to invest further in the industry - bringing more films and shows to the Commonwealth and creating additional jobs throughout the state. Growth in the industry means more economic activity and investments in the communities where the shoots are taking place.
A brief May 15 primary election update: Four incumbents lost, with the most significant being the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor. Mayor John Fetterman from Braddock beat current LG Mike Stack, who finished 4th in that race. Three incumbents from Western PA lost: Republican Senator Randy Vulakovich and House of Representative Democrats Paul Costa and Dom Costa. Three special elections were held for vacant House seats: a seat in Washington County (formerly held by Brandon Neuman) changed from Democrat to Republican, a seat in Bucks County (formerly held by Scott Petri) changed from Republican to Democrat, and a seat in Tioga County (formerly held by Matt Baker) stayed Republican.
April was a very quiet month in Harrisburg, the calm before the storm. May will continue to be quiet, leading up to the May 15th Primary election. All 203 House seats are on the ballot, half of the Senate seats, along with the races for Lieutenant Governor, Governor, US House, and US Senate. The Senate has adjourned until May 21st. The House will be in Session April 30, May 1, and May 2, and will then adjourn until May 22nd.
And then the mad budget dash leading up to June 30 will be officially underway.
During the days and weeks leading up to June 30, PAFIA will be actively advocating for an increase in the annual film tax credit allocation. This continued outreach to various members of the General Assembly (House and Senate, Republican and Democrat) has been an integral part of PAFIA's government relations strategy and advocacy. It allows for PAFIA leadership to routinely be introduced to new members of the legislature, as well as outreach to elected officials who have been in office for years. PAFIA will be coordinating with many stakeholders, including the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Film Offices, to increase the $65 million film tax credit allocation.
During March, PAFIA President, David Haddad, and PAFIA Government Relations Committee Chair, Mike McCann, traveled to Harrisburg on tow separate occasions for meetings with elected officials to discuss the industry and to promote the benefits of an increase to the annual allocation of the Film Tax Credit. This continued outreach to various members of the General Assembly (House & Senate, Republican & Democrat) has been an integral part of PAFIA's government relations strategy and advocacy. It allows for PAFIA leadership to routinely be introduced to new members of the legislature, as well as outreach to elected officials who have been in office for years. In addition to our advocacy, it allows PAFIA to receive varying perspectives on the film credit, as well as all credits. Some elected officials, at times, express concerns with the concept of tax credits and the overall benefit to the economy of the Commonwealth. PAFIA shares specific example
As previously reported, PAFIA is working with many stakeholders, including the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Film Offices, to seek an increase to the $65 million film tax credit allocation. PAFIA is very appreciative for the support that legislators and the Governor have for the program, but we feel it is a very good time to invest further in the industry - bringing more films and shows to the Commonwealth and creating additional jobs throughout the state.s of what the Film Credit has meant to the industry here in Pennsylvania.
Due to the Primary election on May 15th, the House and Senate will be in session intermittently throughout April and early May, both reconvening during the week of May 21 for the anticipated flurry of budget activity leading up to the June 30th budget deadline.
On Tuesday, February 6th, the Governor gave his annual budget address before members of the House and Senate. The Governor has proposed a $32.9 million budget, nearly $1 billion more than this current year's approved spending plan. In addition to the Governor's budget proposal, revenues for the current fiscal year are exceeding projections, resulting in a surplus. The proposal reflects an additional $225 million in funding for education as well as a severance tax on natural gas.
PAFIA is working with many stakeholders, including the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh Film Offices, to seek an increase to the $65 million film tax credit allocation. While PAFIA remains very appreciative for the support that legislators and the Governor have for the program, we feel it is a very good time to invest further in the industry - bringing more films and shows to the Commonwealth, creating additional jobs throughout the state. PAFIA will be working closely with our supporters, as well as reaching out to those legislators who don't support the tax credit or remain skeptical of the benefits and impacts.
As February ends, House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be finishing up their hearings with all the state agencies and return to session on March 12. PAFIA will continue to fight for the program.
The House and Senate returned on Tuesday, January 2nd and both were in session last week (Jan 22-24). For the week of January 29th, only the Senate is in session. Both the House and Senate are in session next week, and the Governor gives his annual budget address on Tuesday, February 6. The House and Senate will adjourn for Appropriations hearings, returning to session in mid March.
It is my understanding that the Governor will propose that the FIlm Tax Credit will remain funded at $65 million for this year. During our subsequent outreach, we will express appreciation for the continued support but will make a measured plea for a responsible increase in the amount. With 2018 being a re-election year for the Governor, all House members, and half of the Senate, there will likely be fiscal challenges with balancing the budget. Sound familiar? Stay tuned...
On January 13th, PAFIA presented "Trailer Talk" hosted by Paula Gregg and Jeannee Josefczyk at the Quality Inn in New Kensington. 17 independent films were highlighted, with the producers, directors, actors, and crew members in attendance to directly represent their projects. The collaborative spirit and sense of accomplishment in creating a film was evident as the directors and producers took the stage to talk about their projects. Film in Pennsylvania can only continue to thrive under a healthy tax credit program. PAFIA supports independent and studio projects alike in Pennsylvania. Look for more events like this in the near future!
If you would like to check out the trailers, many of them are available on YouTube and have website or Facebook pages where you can learn more about the films listed below. Please take a moment to support our local filmmakers and crew. Some full length films are not available to watch at this time as they are currently being shown in festivals throughout the country. Congratulations to those films and best wishes for continued success to all!
A WISH FOR GIANTS
THE LAST TRANSMISSION
To submit your short or film to be considered for future events, please contact Paula Gregg at email@example.com! If you are not a member of PAFIA, please take a look at our membership options on our webpage. Your membership will continue to let Harrisburg know that the film tax credit is important and affects jobs in Pennsylvania.
A big THANK YOU to PAFIA member, Casey, LaRocco, who donated his time to help set up and run the digital trailers and also to Andy Winko and the Pittsburgh Smokehouse who provided appetizers and light snacks. In addition, we appreciate those who were able to volunteer their time to help, PAFIA board members: Frank Conforti, Erica Sperber, and Amy Sotereanos.
PAFIA's Winter Holiday Social was held on December 18th in Philadelphia. Jerry's Bar Kindly hosted the event and provided delicious complimentary appetizers. Everyone was impressed by the cozy atmosphere, staff's hospitality, and beautiful interior design of the venue. Local filmmakers, crew, actors, casting, screenwriters, producers, directors, and agents as well as vendors, investors, and supporters of the Film and Television Industry in Pennsylvania gathered to meet like-minded professionals, get different types of projects going, and find out the scoop on new productions.
Attendees were encouraged to bring food or toys for the animals in local shelters. A whole box of goods was collected and will be given to the animals at the PAWS adoption center.
The night ended with a 50/50 raffle drawing and a lot of attendees also won PAFIA shirts and hats. The event went really well and the room was full of laughter and positive vibes.
As the year comes to an end, we can celebrate another successful, yet delayed, Pennsylvania budget. While the timing was 4 months past the June 30th deadline, with the Governor signing the final parts of the budget on October 30th, the film tax credit program was fully funded at $65 million. 2017/2018 reflects a $65 million commitment to film tax credits (increase of $5 million pursuant to the authorization bill in 2016), and also the establishment of a new "film production tax credit district" provision.
The 2017/2018 budget amount is $32 billion, relying largely on borrowing ($1.5 billion) against the state's Tobacco Settlement Fund. It also includes $300 million in special fund transfers; expanding the sales tax to online vendors; a new 12% tax on consumer fireworks; and gaming expansion.
As previously reported, the Department of Community and Economic Development will establish up to two film production tax credit districts. Districts must be at least 55 acres, located on a deteriorated property, and be occupied by a qualified business that would make a capital investment of at least $400 million within five years and contain at least one qualified production facility and six sound stages. This new tax credit would be in addition to the current $65 million cap. The new tax credit districts would begin in the fiscal year 2019/2020, which would begin July 1, 2019 (if budget is on time).
2017/2018 was positive for the film industry. A continued commitment by the Commonwealth to the industry is proven and there is now new framework for additional state investments in the film industry via the film production tax district provision.
The Year Ahead - 2018
The 2018/2019 budget process will officially begin when the Governor provides his annual budget address on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. PAFIA expects the Governor will propose to fund the program again at the same level, $65 million. PAFIA will continue to responsible advocate for an additional investment into the program. 2018 is an election year for most of the legislature as well as the Governor; therefore identifying additional (new) revenues to fund an increase to the program will be a significant challenge.
PAFIA remains a strong voice for the industry and a trusted resource to the administration, the legislature, and the staff.
Here's to a happy, healthy, safe, and prosperous 2018!
Pennsylvania Film Industry Association (PAFIA)461 Cochran Road, Box 246Pittsburgh, PA 15228(717) 833-4561 firstname.lastname@example.org