Frustrated advocates of Wisconsin's bubbling film industry are urging lawmakers to act on a bill that would make tax incentives for production companies immediately available.
The bill currently sits on the desk of state Sen. Russ Decker, D-Weston, who refuses to place it on the agenda of the Joint Finance Committee. As co-chair of the committee, Decker chooses when bills may be addressed.
Carrie Lynch, a spokesperson for Decker, said the senator sees no rush for approval when there are more important issues to consider.
"It's not an emergency, and that's what we'd need to hear," Lynch said. "We just think there are bigger emergencies in this state, like health care."
Over the next few months, the Joint Finance Committee is also responsible for sifting through Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle's proposed 1,700-page biennial budget.
Industry advocates have called for the film credit bill's immediate passage since it could help attract some film companies currently considering Wisconsin for production.
The Los Angeles-based film company Beacon Pictures is producing one movie based on the life of World Series of Poker champion Phil Hellmuth, a former University of Wisconsin student, and is still considering production in Madison.
Dave Fantle, vice president of public relations for Visit Milwaukee — which is working with Beacon Pictures to organize production — said the movie "The Madison Kid" may be moved to Winnipeg, Canada, because the area offers better tax incentives.
Fantle said Visit Milwaukee will continue to welcome Beacon Pictures' $10 million movie to Wisconsin, but added it would be difficult without significant incentives to offer.
"We're not going to waste their time if we're still at an impasse," Fantle said. "We are bleeding the longer we delay this."
Fantle said it would be an insult to have the Madison-based film produced elsewhere and also said something may be wrong with the democratic process if one person can stop the Legislature from even considering a proposal.
Lynch said critics of Decker's decision are trying to create an emergency situation when in fact the tax credits will still be available next year.
"[Film industry advocates] worked out a deal last session and they should be happy with the deal they got," Lynch said.
When the tax incentives passed the Joint Finance Committee in 2006, members of the committee agreed to move the effective date from July 2007 to January 2008. Lynch said the purpose of the compromise was to "push off the fiscal impact to the state."
Opponents of the tax incentives — who were a relatively small minority in 2006 — called the bill corporate welfare and said it would cost the state and taxpayers too much money.
Fantle said the incentives might cost the state some cash but will likely return big bucks to local businesses.
"This is new money, and we are rebating new money that comes into the state," Fantle said. "This has so many arms and legs — so much economic impact after production is completed."
When Decker does choose to address the bill in the Joint Finance Committee, it would have to pass a committee vote and both houses before landing on Gov. Doyle's desk for signing.