by Julia Pierrepont III
LOS ANGELES, Aug. 4 (Xinhua) -- Taking a strong position against conservative states that refuse to protect women's abortion rights or support gun control, California Governor Gavin Newsom came out swinging on Wednesday, extorting Hollywood film companies to "take stock of your values -- and those of your employees -- when doing business in those states."
In an ad published in Variety, Newsom urged companies to promote their liberal values by bringing productions back to blue states willing to protect women's right to choose, from red states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Florida that actively prohibit abortions and are lax on gun ownership and LGBTQ civil rights.
Wednesday's statement issued by the leader of the most populous state in the country underscored the pressure that intensifying culture wars are placing on U.S. corporations, particularly in states where the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade has severely restricted reproductive rights for women, the New York Times said.
Following the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision on June 24 to overturn decades of abortion rights and women's right to control their own bodies set during Roe v. Wade in 1973, now Hollywood executives need to take more into consideration when cashing in on tax incentives from red states that have banned or restrict access to abortions.
So far, Netflix, the Walt Disney Company, NBC Universal's parent company Comcast and other entertainment companies have developed their own in-house programs to support employees who wish to explore abortion options in states that prohibit it but have not cancelled their current production plans in red states.
But entertainment companies have not yet announced major plans to cancel expansions or relocate offices. The Motion Picture Association, the trade group representing major film studios, declined to comment on Wednesday.
However, months before the controversial ruling, a fierce battle between the Florida government and Disney had been ignited by Florida's anti-LGBTQ "Don't Say Gay" bill introduced in February and passed in March.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and state legislators revoked the special authority that Disney had enjoyed over the land they owned for years when Disney's employees forced the company to speak out against the legislation.
Disney had been slow to take a stance against the anti-LGBTQ legislation until hundreds of their employees staged a walk-out in protest, forcing Disney CEO Bob Chapek to call DeSantis personally to oppose the bill.
California Governor Newsom then took to the Twitter-sphere to urge Disney to "Rethink its Florida Investments." In fact, Disney may be listening. It has postponed the transfer of 2,000 well-paid jobs from California to Florida in June, which would have meant a hefty increase in the state's tax revenues.
Meanwhile, Newsom's latest remarks reflect an economic war among the states as well.
On Wednesday, Newsom, the Democratic governor, also simultaneously endorsed a legislative proposal that would provide a 1.65-billion-U.S.-dollar, five-year extension of California's film and television production tax credit program.
State tax incentives that return substantial portions of a production budget back to producers are strong inducements for them to shoot in that state and provide powerful economic drivers for the state itself.
California's soft money incentive, created in 2009 to keep more productions from moving to tax-incentive states, gives a 25-percent recoupment for eligible production expenses shot in the Golden State and 30 percent for local resident crews.
But competition is fierce, since several states offer even higher incentives, including New York State's 35 percent, New Jersey's up to 37 percent, and Louisiana up to 45 percent for in-state resident crew costs, etc.
Film and television production in California generated a record-breaking 4.4 billion dollars in the state this year, and a recent study conducted by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., for the Motion Picture Association of America revealed that California's tax incentive program had been instrumental in creating more than 110,000 jobs and "tens of billions of dollars in economic output."
The program endorsed on Wednesday has lured some high-profile films like "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and hit TV shows such as "American Horror Story," "Stranger Things," "Lucifer" and "Veep."
But moving production back to California is an expensive proposition and difficult to implement, especially when a production company has invested billions in infrastructure in the state, such as Disney has in Florida.
With Governor Newsom and entertainment industry creatives and executives taking an increasingly strong stand for their employers to put their money where their mouth is and not reward backward-looking states by shooting there, the pressure is on.
"Democrats can't just hide in our corner," Newsom said, taking his battle of conscience nationwide.
Moreover, Wednesday's move marked the second time in recent weeks that Newsom has used California legislation as a cudgel to rip Republican leaders elsewhere.
Last month, he signed a bill allowing residents to sue makers of illegal guns and took the opportunity to rebuke Texas Governor Greg Abbott for previously enabling its residents to sue abortion providers.
Also last month, Newsom released an ad in Florida, attacking DeSantis and inviting Florida businesses to come to California. ■