YOUNG: Let’s Increase Taxpayer Protection Through Accountability Of Film Tax Credits

Editor’s Note: A guest post by Jefferson Parish President John Young.

We’ve all seen the headlines and read the news. Louisiana is facing a massive budget deficit, and our elected officials face tough decisions this year. Budget cuts and tax credits will dominate the discussion as we approach the 2015 legislative session.

Recently, one tax credit in particular has garnered attention from the media and politicians alike: the Louisiana Motion Picture Tax Incentive, commonly known as the film tax credit.

First, the good news: Louisiana is number one in film production in the world.  What does this mean for our state? Local economies are bolstered. Jobs are created.  Small businesses see increased revenues.

We grew this industry organically from the ground up, in large part due to our state’s tax incentives. We’ve been so successful that other places like Georgia and California are trying to catch up to Louisiana.

Now, the challenging part: In the process of becoming the best, our state also created an open invitation for fraud, waste, and abuse by promoting a system without enough transparency and accountability. This must be addressed. Put simply, we need to keep what works and change what doesn’t.

It can be done.  In Jefferson Parish, we offer a parish incentive for local economic activity stemming from film and television production. Our incentive is in the form of a three percent cash rebate on local spending, including payroll for residents and lodging, which cannot be bought and sold like the statewide credit. We have implemented rigorous standards and a detailed audit system to ensure accountability from the production industry, giving taxpayers the transparency they deserve.

In short, we’ve worked to bring stakeholders together to advance common-sense solutions that create real economic growth and industry success, while safeguarding taxpayers.

We need these types of protections in place in our statewide film tax credit program as well. By increasing transparency and accountability in Louisiana’s film industry, we can further enhance our diverse economy.

I look forward to working with the Legislature and other elected officials to address these challenges head-on and bring positive change to help create economic growth and opportunity. Working together, we can make Louisiana the very best place to live, work, raise a family, and visit.

John Young is the President of Jefferson Parish. He is a former Assistant District Attorney, prosecutor, and small business owner.

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