State Rep. Matt Shaheen (R–Plano) has again filed legislation to abolish the Office of the Governor’s Music, Film, Television, and Multimedia Office and to end the Texas Moving Image Industry Incentive Program.
The TMIIIP has been the target of fiscal conservatives and budget hawks working to curtail cronyism in the Texas Legislature for nearly a decade. Under the program, taxpayers are forced to subsidize film companies for productions made in Texas. The money is appropriated by the legislature to an agency within the governor’s office, where companies can apply for the incentives.
Companies creating movies, television shows, commercials, and even video games have received millions of dollars in tax-funded handouts since the program’s inception. Walmart, Nike, and AT&T are a few of the major corporate entities raking in benefits at the expense of Texas taxpayers, as well as several major Hollywood production companies.
Shaheen has led the fight to end the subsidies and abolish the office since entering the Texas House in 2015, filing legislation each session.
“It’s inappropriate for the government to take hard earned money from Texans and give it to Hollywood actors, many of whom don’t share our values,” said Shaheen.
During the most recent session, Shaheen joined State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) and other conservative lawmakers in pushing for the end of the program, but neither members’ bill received traction through the traditional process. Hall’s version received a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Economic Development, but the bill was left pending without a vote. Shaheen’s legislation was, likewise, set for a public hearing in the House Committee on Economic and Small Business Development, but was later withdrawn from the schedule that same day.
Eventually the fight to remove the program would make it to the floor of the Texas House during the debate over the state budget. Shaheen filed an amendment striking the language that appropriated dollars to the program. It would go on to pass 100–40, but was ultimately removed by the conference committee.
With a new speaker of the House, however, comes new hope for the legislation.
State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R–Angleton), who was unanimously endorsed by the House Republican Caucus, is widely expected to win the gavel despite Republican losses last month. And Bonnen has promised legislators a more member-oriented and transparent chamber. Many representatives, especially reform-minded conservatives, have been vocal about the failed leadership of the previous speaker’s team and its obstruction of bills that never make it to the floor for a vote.
Popular proposals to end corporate handouts, and even a number of Republican Legislative Priorities, have collected dust on the desks of committee chairmen in years past. With Bonnen at the helm, legislation that would pass on the House floor but was not given a fair shake in committee may finally receive members’ consideration when the Texas House reconvenes in January.
Shaheen should be commended for continuing to fight for this important reform, and conservatives should be active on the issue, as it is expected to be contentious.