Hollywood Letting Its Greed Show
Among a good portion of the national political punditry, Hollywood is often portrayed as a bunch of idealistic, liberal do-gooders.
Apparently none of those commentators have paid much attention to how Hollywood has been manipulating state governments to rob from the tax coffers that go to pay for things like schools and health care for the poor.
Gordon Gecko and Charles Foster Kane would be proud. Hollywood, it seems, is more greedy than the characters often condemned in the movies that they make.
Fantasy is just that. In the real world, greed is good indeed.
So, less than a year removed from convincing North Carolina legislators to increase the ante on its tax incentives to lure film productions, Hollywood wants more.
Gov. Bev Perdue recently took a brief trip to the land of make-believe only to learn that Hollywood executives want the state to drop caps on the amount of incentives that can be earned by film production companies working in the state.
Only by doing so will the state see an increase in the movie-making business, Perdue said.
Last year, legislators increased those incentives by allowing film production companies to receive a tax credit worth up to 25 percent of their expenses. This is a tax credit, not a deduction, meaning the expenses come off their final tax bill.
Before the change, when the tax credit stood at 15 percent of expenses, the state Department of Commerce valued the credit at $7.5 million on a $50 million film production.
The incentives law caps the credit at $7.5 million and limits per-person wages considered in the calculation at $1 million.
Those limits need to go, Perdue was told, if North Carolina doesn't want to get beaten out by Georgia and other states that offer more lucrative incentives.
State officials here and elsewhere believe the film business provides enough of a boost to the economy to make the incentives worthwhile. One study, conducted by the Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University, suggested otherwise. It found that incentives offered in New Mexico produced just 14 cents in tax revenue for every dollar offered by the state.
That being the case, perhaps Hollywood ought to go back to doing what it does best, filmmaking.
Here's a suggestion for a new script:
An aging, well-known filmmaker, his mantel lined with Academy Awards, sits up in his bed in his posh Hollywood Hills home, about to die. As he drops a crystal globe, he utters a final word. "Blackmail."
A young reporter from the Los Angeles Times hears the story and does his best to try to track down who could have been blackmailing this icon of the film industry. His investigation generates headlines and the speculation even ruins careers. In the end, though, he can't unravel the mystery.
In the movie's final scenes, a teaching assistant in North Carolina is handed a pink slip, a doctor in Georgia tells a poor man that he no longer takes Medicaid patients.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
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