Time to say ‘cut’ to film industry

Remember when Robert Downey Jr. filmed a movie at the Duffy-Poule Funeral Home in Attleboro? Fans mobbed around the “Iron Man” actor, seeking autographs and a photo with one of Hollywood’s biggest stars?

And remember when the Benny’s store in Mansfield was converted to a movie set with A-list celebrities Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin filming a scene? Again, fans turned out to observe a little piece of showbiz.

The only problem is, those visits are costing you money.

Since 2006, Massachusetts has spent hundreds of millions of dollars – about $80 million a year – financing movies made in the Bay State. The theory is that the state subsidies would aid the local movie industry, welcome more artists to the state and pump some money into the local economy by bringing in film crews who would eat and shop at Massachusetts restaurants and stores.

There was also the intangible benefit of bringing the sights and sounds of the Bay State to a national or even global audience. Maybe that would give a boost to tourism.

The only problem is, it hasn’t worked.

Several reports have said the film tax credit has resulted in few jobs and that much of the money ends up in the pocket of well-paid, out-of-state movie stars. The credit has also been a boon to the Teamsters, whose members often work on movie sets. Instead of lowering their often exorbitant wage costs, movie producers have simply been able to pay the union, at the expense of taxpayers.

Former state Rep. Steve D’Amico, a Democrat from Seekonk, argued for so long against the tax break for Hollywood that he was shunned by his party’s leadership.

That’s why it’s great to see that one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s first move is to phase out the film tax credit and instead double the earned income tax credit for the working poor. Far better to give taxpayer dollars to struggling Bay Staters than to ultra-rich movie stars.

Interestingly, Baker, a Republican, has gotten support from liberal Democrats and pushback from his own party, including members of the Attleboro area GOP delegation. We hope local Republican legislators reconsider their objections; we also praise Attleboro’s state representative, Paul Heroux, for crossing party lines and backing Baker.

As fun as it is to Tinsel Town glamor right next door, it’s simply not a good use of taxpayer money. The Legislature should say to Hollywood, “That’s a wrap.”

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