Report: MI Film Incentive is Bad for Budget

By: Katie Kim Email
By: Katie Kim Email

From the silver screen to the TV screen, Hollywood has come to Mid-Michigan -- thanks to the state's film tax incentive.

"We're booming," says Michigan Film Office Director Carrie Jones. "We have 96 projects so far this year, 48 projects approved to date. We have 28 projects wrapped, 14 filming, 8 in pre-production."

Jones says the state offers a generous 40% tax incentive to productions who shoot here and hire locally. The program launched in 2008, and Jones tells us she's seeing the benefits.

"It's bringing investment to the state, it's keeping our young people here, it's kind of changing the image of Michigan."

But economist David Zin paints a different picture.

"It doesn't do much for the budget," Zin says. "It's definitely a revenue loss."

The Senate Fiscal Agency reports the state doled out nearly $38 million in tax breaks in 2008. That generated about $100 million in private spending. But Zin says half of that money left Michigan without boosting economic activity.

"Overall, a 40% credit is virtually impossible to offset on a revenue basis," says Zin.

Zin also adds the tax program has done little to create stable jobs. But Jones disagrees.

"Are these 52 week jobs? No. But can people pay their mortgage, pay into their savings? Yes," says Jones.

Rep. Joan Bauer, D-Lansing, is also hesitant to pull the plug on the program.

"We have young people who are making careers in this now," says Bauer. "Local communities are really seeing the benefit of money pouring into their businesses. And we know it's helped nationally. People in the country have a different perspective on Michigan."

And supporters say that's something you can't put a price on.

Carrie Jones says, to date, the program has given $60 million in tax breaks and has seen nearly $350 million in investments.

To see the Senate Fiscal Agency report, visit http://www.senate.michigan.gov/sfa/Publications/Issues/FilmIncentives/FilmIncentives.pdf


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