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Despite struggling state finances, film welfare continues

As the state struggled to make ends meet, while there was talk about as a solution ridding the state of some obnoxious spending programs such as the corporate welfare of the Mega-Projects Fund, perhaps the biggest, most useless state giveaway escaped any scrutiny at all – film tax credits, despite nationwide trends turning against them.

As almost every state faces tight fiscal times, a fresh and realistically critical reappraisal has gone on concerning these programs, now to be offered in 45 states with Virginia’s recent enactment of such a law. Several states’ programs had faced negatives reviews from either inside or outside of government, prompted by money woes, and Iowa is making moves to dismantle its. Louisiana’s has gotten a black eye with the recent criminal conviction of the former head of its program and of a financier that used the program as an excuse to bilk high profile investors.

Only this spring the Tax Foundation released the most recent comprehensive report, noting most jobs “created” are temporary with little upwards mobility, that laudatory studies of these incentives are rife with misleading assumptions, and, confirming what so many other studies have found, that these programs cost states more, usually far more, than the revenues they bring in. And the economic climate has found states more willing to be critical about who gets incentives, finally beginning to sensitize policy-makers into understanding the programs are nothing more than ways to subsidize the production of more and more dreck.

Louisiana doesn’t need to pay taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars to put additional lame visions on celluloid. But the program continues legally with no cap on the credit and no restrictions on the kinds of movies being made. And it continues to lose money, about $100 million a year according to the required 2009 report. Yet not a single bill in this year’s just-concluded session addressed in any way this program, much less its restricting or termination to save money.

So if you end up wondering why the indigent will have a harder time getting medical services or college students face more difficulty in finding classes to complete degrees, just go to your favorite straight-to-digital bargain movie seller to see all of the selections stamped “Made in Louisiana,” and revel in how the state “invested” your money.

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