GOP Budget Spends More on Film Subsidies

Picking Hollywood over taxpayers

According to an article on MLive, a budget plan put forth by Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, and House Majority Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, would double the amount of money being spent on Michigan’s film subsidy program. Spending taxpayer money on millionaire Hollywood movie producers and stars is a bad idea.

The budget spends an extra $25 million on top of the $25 million that has already been proposed for the program. Michigan’s film subsidy used to be the most generous in the country, reimbursing up to 42 percent of the cost of a production’s payroll expenses. At the end of last year, the GOP-led Legislature cut the program, but still guaranteed up to 32 percent in give-backs.

Last year, the film subsidy gave millions to rich Hollywood studio films like "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas," "Transformers 3," "Real Steel" and others. For "Real Steel," Michigan taxpayers paid $4.26 each for the movie.

Besides the fact that the subsidy returns very little as an “investment” — and the questionable practice of bureaucrats picking and choosing Hollywood film stars over taxpayers — there have been multiple problems with the program.

The city of Allen Park recently requested an emergency manager after losing what will turn out to be tens of millions of dollars on a failed movie studio project that promised to create 3,000 jobs. It created none and left the town nearly bankrupt.

The West Michigan film studio “Hangar42” was championed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm while seeking $10 million in subsidies – the bogus deal was exposed by a Mackinac Center investigation and became mired in legal problems.

Progressive filmmaker Michael Moore, supposedly someone opposed to special deals for the wealthy, received up to $1 million for shooting part of his flick “Capitalism: A Love Story” in Michigan.

There is definitely some good in the budget. First off, it is nice that the Legislature is actually talking about a budget this early and laying out clearly what it would entail. The plan also includes a proposal to slightly lower the state income tax rate from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent, leaving approximately $90 million more in the private sector.

But in picking budget priorities, Republican leaders in the state had a decision. They could either give more money back to taxpayers or spend it on an embattled cronyism film subsidy. They chose to pick economic winners and losers instead of letting taxpayers spend the money on what they prioritize.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.