Michigan film incentives would be axed under new legislation

By Emily Lawler

LANSING, MI — Michigan has subsidized big-ticket films like “Batman vs Superman” and “Oz the Great and Powerful,” but all that would end if Rep. Dan Lauwers gets his way.

HB 4122 would require the Michigan Film Office to cease giving out incentives on Oct. 1, 2015, when the state’s fiscal year rolls over.

Lauwers, a Brockway Republican, said the state’s $325 million budget shortfall inspired the bill’s introduction. The budget hole was created by tax incentives that went to businesses and are now projected to cost the state $9.8 billion, which Michigan will be paying until 2032.

“It just makes no sense to continue handing out money,” Lauwers said.

He has a free market philosophy. Asked if his proposal would mean the end of the film industry in the state he said “I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does it means the only thing keeping the film industry going is our ability to pay them to be here. If that’s what it requires than we’re never going to get on positive ground.”

The bill has 11 co-sponsors.The Michigan Chamber of Commerce also supports the bill.

“We applaud Rep. Lauwers and every state legislator who joined him by co-sponsoring this important reform,” said Jim Holcomb, Senior Vice President for Business Advocacy & General Counsel for the Michigan Chamber, in statement.

The Chamber also pointed to a report on the 2013 incentives that found they created 668 temporary jobs but zero permanent jobs.

“This boondoggle currently costs Michigan taxpayers $50 million a year and even the state’s own economic development agency (MEDC) reported this costly subsidy failed in 2013 to create one permanent job,” noted Tricia Kinley, Senior Director of Tax & Regulatory Reform the Michigan Chamber. “The time to end this wasteful spending is long overdue and we are urging the Legislature to take immediate action.”

Gov. Rick Snyder has not been a strong proponent of film incentives. He did, however, recently sign legislation extending them. He partially cut the current year’s budget for film credits and included $50 million in incentive funding in his budget for Fiscal Year 2016, but said it was a point open to debate.

The bill has been referred to the House Tax Policy Committee, which will take testimony on it next week. Lauwers said he’s had favorable discussions with the committee chair Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica.

A spokesperson for the Michigan Film Office declined to comment on the legislation.


Comments are closed.