by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
The House Committee Draft Budget today includes this gem:
Film and Entertainment Grant Fund
Provides funds to the Film and Entertainment Grant Fund established in G.S. 143B-437.02A, to encourage the production of motion pictures, television shows, and commercials and to develop the filmmaking industry within the State. In addition to the $60 million appropriated for FY 2016-17, another $60 million is earmarked and appropriated to the Fund from the FY 2014-15 Unreserved Fund Balance, bringing the total amount available for grants to $120 million.
By way of comparison, the last two years of film incentives giveaways were $60.3 million in 2014 and $63.6 million in 2013. So this budget would start at the high level of film production giveaways, which suggests an annual end-of-year spectacle of the state film office desperately knocking up doors in Hollywood to give away the remaining millions to someone, anyone who will film whatever, something, anything here.
Yeah, that will garner us the next “Bull Durham” and “Last of the Mohicans.” (Is it unfair of me to pick two iconic N.C. films made before film incentives? I don’t think so — the film lobby wants you to think those were made with incentives, so why not?)
Big Film, Big Net Revenue Loser
At a revenue loss over over 80 cents on the dollar, that deficit piles up quickly. Which is why several other states have recently gotten out of film incentives altogether (over one-fourth of U.S. states not providing them) and in recent weeks, Alaska, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Massachusetts, and even Louisiana are rethinking theirs.
State after state after state has conducted third-party studies of their film incentives programs and found they return mere pennies on the dollar:
It’s rather surprising this issue has to be fought at all. But the tug of cronyism is very, very strong, and with each cave-in the GOP is doing serious damage to its “party of limited government” credentials.
Frankly, I don’t understand how Republicans could congratulate themselves last week on excellent economic returns from having passed in 2013 some empirically backed job-creation legislation — i.e., cutting taxes and regulations — and then in a few short days start poor-mouthing job creation and pretend that it doesn’t happen without net job-killing big-government giveaways to favored industries.
They know — by dint of the incentives carve-out they prove they know — that lower corporate income taxes boost job creation. That’s what incentive programs are based upon. So why play favorites with industries and just give the tax breaks to a favored few? Why not cut corporate taxes and call that plan, rightfully, an all-comers incentive?
But that pull of cronyism is strong …