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Time for Lights, Camera, Action California

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Several weeks ago the state legislature took a smart step for California's economy and our state's workers; it passed an extension of the California Film and Television Tax Credit through 2015. This extension -- worth $100 million annually -- is an indispensable economic development tool. After all, film and TV tax incentives help keep or create thousands of jobs in California and offer a measurable return on investment.

It's time to keep this important tool working for the people of Los Angeles and the State of California. It's time for Governor Jerry Brown to sign the extension into law.

Los Angeles is the creative capital of America. It is where the world creates and innovates. No industry showcases our great city's creative might and prowess better than the entertainment industry.

However, in a world where tax credit programs have become highly competitive, film and TV productions have become highly mobile -- California cannot afford inaction on this important issue.

That's because runaway production is real and it's getting worse.

Since 1997 the loss of production to other states and countries has cost California $2.4 billion in wages and $4.2 billion in total economic output. Over those 15 years film production dropped by 50 percent and 20,000 jobs were lost. All of this as movies wholly or partially filmed in California plummeted, from 272 in 2000 to 160 in 2008.

Then the other shoe dropped.

For decades, we have relied on TV production to make up for the loss in film. But today, even TV is not immune to the competitive pressures as more and more pilot and series production moves out of state. The result? TV production losses of up to 15 to 40 percent.

Nonetheless there is reason for optimism and excitement. We're still the county's leader in movie and TV productions. But we won't be for long unless we take aggressive action to support California-grown film and TV production.

Extending the California Film and TV Tax Credit is a smart investment. By extending it, we will support 117,000 entertainment industry jobs and $40 billion in wages.

We will also see those dollars pumped back into our economy in the form of new jobs and renewed investment. In fact, the nonprofit and non-partisan Headway Project partnered up with UCLA to find that for every $1 we spend on tax credits we get back $1.04 in the broader economy.

No matter which way you slice it, tax credits make sense. The jobs we're protecting or creating are the backbone of our state's economy. Of course, we all see the high-profile jobs the industry is known for -- writers, directors and actors. However the majority of entertainment work focuses on a wide array of occupations, including set designers, make-up artists, hairdressers, caterers and lighting and camera crews.

Many of these are good paying, union jobs that you can raise a family on. That's not only a win for the middle class, that's a win for the economic prosperity of California.

However, let me be clear: Extending the California Film and TV Tax Credit is a first, albeit important, step in addressing the long-term concerns of the entertainment industry. There's work left to be done to make our tax incentive structure more predictable and flexible to maximize its job-creating potential. It's time for Californians to come together and develop long-term solutions to ensure that the next generation of creative economy jobs for our state remain and expand here.

By extending this tax incentive now, we will demonstrate to the movie and television industry that California is serious about remaining America's capital of entertainment.

Complacency is not consistent with our history, spirit or disposition. Especially, when so much is at stake and it is within our control to make a different that creates jobs and generates desperately needed tax revenue.

Together, we can remind the world what "lights, camera, action" looks like in California.

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the 41st mayor of the City of Los Angeles.