by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
News from the Wall Street Journal:
More than 80 movies featuring stars such as Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins and Michael Douglas have been filmed in Connecticut over the past seven years, thanks largely to $137.4 million in tax credits to film production companies.
But the parade of stars may stop: Connecticut, confronting budget difficulties and competition from other states—including New York—is putting the tax-credit program on a two-year hiatus.
Connecticut isn’t the only one (my Carolina Cronyism report on state film incentives discusses others in detail). WSJ later adds:
Liz Destro, a film producer, says it is rare to film in a state that doesn’t offer tax credits. She recently finished producing a movie in an industrial section of Stamford that doubled for Detroit in the 1970s. Shooting in Michigan wasn’t an option because the state ended its tax-credit program, Ms. Destro said.
Aside: I wonder if Connecticut’s film-office shills have been talking up a Massive Tourism Wave to Stamford from people seeking to have that Detroit-in-the-’70s-via-Connecticut experience. If it had been filmed in North Carolina, you could bet the NC Film Office and its willing media mouthpieces would be making that case. We offer, after all, the ransacked old mountain shanty town from the dystopian future and — oh! — present-day Afghanistan!
The WSJ finds the obligatory incentives advocate who cannot imagine employment without state giveaways, a former House speaker turned lobbyist who says “Obviously, it’s been a success.” The graph provided by the WSJ entitled “Shot in the Arm,” not to mention the lede (see above), seems to fall in line with the idea that the incentive has been an obvious success.
But as I said in my Shaftesbury speech, Actions by the “visible hand” of government are visible. You have to account for the unseen lost alternative uses of those resources that the state confiscated and redirected to give to the politicians’ hand-picked “winners.” Focusing only on the fact that favored companies take the handouts the state offers them “amounts to being pleasantly surprised that dogs like dog food.”
As cited in my report, a 2008 study of Connecticut’s film incentives, conducted by that state’s Department of Community and Economic Development, found that the state received only seven cents in revenue per dollar of state revenue spent. Now, those seven cents per can still make up a nice-looking “Shot in the Arm” by themselves, as long as the cameras stay focused there and not on the 93 cents per dollar lost.
But sometimes a budget crisis has a way of refocusing priorities.