by Brian Balfour
Senior Vice President of Research, John Locke Foundation
A bill was filed today that would add another $34 million to the program that gives away taxpayer dollars to wealthy Hollywood movie studios.
Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Michael Lee (R-New Hanover) and Paul A Lowe, Jr. (D-Forsyth), would commit $34 million in film production grants over the next two years. Currently, the film grant program offers a rebate of up to 25 percent of qualifying expenses, with differing maximum credits for television series ($12 million), feature films ($7 million), and commercials ($250,000).
The Locke Foundation has written extensively in opposition to such handouts to Hollywood, not only because it is unfair to shower targeted benefits to certain politically-privileged industries, but because it makes bad economics. As my colleague Jon Sanders wrote, “Multiple third-party studies of North Carolina’s program incentivizing film productions showed negative returns, ranging from just over 19 cents per dollar of tax credit given, to a high of 61 cents per dollar.”
Making matters worse, Sanders added, “Unlike other economic incentive programs, film grants don’t require recipients to earn them over time by hitting specific local job-creation targets or fulfilling other long-term promises. When the project is over, the grant money is gone and so are the jobs.”
In other words, film incentives are an economic loser that unfairly plays political favorites, with taxpayers picking up the tab.
Rather than introducing bills to expand the program, legislators should be seeking to end it.