Even as Oklahoma was struggling with the economic impact of the COVID-19 shutdown and the decline in the oil and gas industry, the legislature this year sought to give more handouts to the film industry.
HB 3921 and SB 1442, each of which cleared their respective chambers but neither of which made it to the governor’s desk, sought to expand Oklahoma’s film enhancement rebate program, a program that 13 other states have discontinued.
Currently, Oklahoma’s rebate program has a cap of $8 million annually, but these two bills allow for that cap to be exceeded if a project is deemed a “high impact” production by the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission. These excess payments would be paid out through the rebate program’s revolving fund or the governor’s quick action closing fund (which is normally used to lure large-scale employers such as Boeing or GE).
With Oklahoma facing a nearly half-billion-dollar shortfall this year and the possibility of an even greater shortfall next year, expanding nonessential programs like this one is short-sighted and adds to the burden on Oklahoma taxpayers when they can least afford it.
[This is one in a series of articles about legislation included on OCPA’s 2020 legislative scorecard.]