News Story

That's a Wrap! Film Subsidies Terminated

Bill ending program now a law

On Friday, Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 4122, legislation that phases out Michigan’s film subsidy program.

The measure, which is now officially Public Act 117 of 2015, prohibits the state film office and the relevant agencies from entering into any new film subsidy agreements or adding to existing ones. Money left over after the last subsidy deal is satisfied will revert to the state’s General Fund.

“It’s important that we support creativity and innovation in our state, and we’ll continue to have a Michigan Film Office to assist moviemakers and production staff,” Snyder said. “Michigan has much to offer the movie industry, including top-notch talent and beautiful backdrops that will continue to draw filmmakers to Michigan even without taxpayer-funded incentives.”

For Michigan taxpayers, the program, which launched in 2008, has been a colossal flop. After delivering hundreds of millions of Michigan taxpayer dollars to film studios, there were 102 fewer film industry jobs in this state, according to federal employment statistics. Other states' film incentive programs have also been shown to be a waste.

"Scholars across the spectrum agree that subsidizing filmmaking is a waste of taxpayer dollars,” said James Hohman, the assistant director of fiscal policy with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “We applaud Michigan legislators and the governor for eliminating this program."

Ultimately, the Legislature’s and the governor’s decision to pull the plug mirrors popular sentiment. Polling results released by the Mackinac Center and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce in May showed that 66 percent of voters favored diverting film subsidy money to road repairs.

The final scenes of the film subsidy drama included several plot twists and turns. Last December, the Legislature passed a bill to extend the expiring program, set to close with 2014.

But just weeks later, Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway, introduced House Bill 4122 to take another shot at ending the subsidies. The House quickly passed the bill but then comments from Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, created the impression it might go no further.

Nonetheless, three months later the Senate passed the bill and sent it to the governor, who has now signed it.

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.