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Tax Rebates for Filmmakers – Bad Legislation

film rebateLess than two months ago the Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill that renewed a tax incentive program designed to attract filmmakers to Oklahoma.  It had to be voted on twice in the House before being passed and was highly criticized by some lawmakers.

“Aren’t we just reimbursing movie stars who come to town for their motel and meals?” asked Rep. James Lockhart, D-Hartshorne.

“If you could bring the whole city of Hollywood here … I wouldn’t want them,” said Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City.

Tulsa World –  Dank and others argued that there is no proof the program helps the state’s economy.

Supporters say it is both good exposure and a sound investment.

The film rebate is one of the smaller business-incentive programs the state offers. Capped at $5 million, it reimburses filmmakers for one-third of qualified expenses — generally money spent in the state for payroll, goods or services.

Cast salaries qualify only if the actor is Oklahoma-based.

Reportedly, the makers of “August: Osage County” spent $35.1 million in the state and will get about $5 million back through the program.

The bill was also criticized in the Senate before being passed. 

NewsOK – State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, argued against the measure, complaining about the rebate money that went to filmmakers for “August: Osage County,” a movie that portrayed a dysfunctional Oklahoma family.

The filmmaker spent $15,321,345 in Oklahoma, including $12,542,157 in qualifying expenditures. It received a rebate of $4,640,598, according to Leslie Channell, deputy director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office. Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts starred in the movie.

“That (rebate) money would essentially go to the Weinstein Company. Harvey Weinstein was the producer,” Dahm complained. “This is a man who has a net worth of $150 million.”

Dahm said Weinstein gave $75,000 to Democratic candidates in 2012, including $35,800 directly to Barack Obama.

Dahm facetiously suggested the state would be better off to keep the $5 million a year it spends on the film rebate program and “donate this $35,800 directly to Hillary’s 2016 campaign.” The remaining money could be used to pay for funding things like education or corrections, he said.

And now it turns out that Rep. Dank was completely correct.  A report from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce indicates the State is going to have a net loss of $4.2 million on the film August: Osage County.

KGOU – A state lawmaker says a recently released report from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce shows film rebates recently extended by the legislature are a “bad deal.”

“I recently secured a copy of an economic impact study prepared by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce in April that makes it very clear that this film tax credit is a bad deal for Oklahomans,” state Rep. David Dank said Tuesday. The Oklahoma City Republican is an outspoken critic of the rebates, and called it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

The study examined the rebates associated with August: Osage County. Rebates for the production totaled $4.6 million or 37 percent of the $12.5 million in qualifying expenditures.

“What did we get in return? The report estimates a total of $415,000 in state tax revenue from the film,” Dank says. “That means we lost $4.2 million underwriting one movie. Where I come from, that is bad business.”

Film rebates that are paid for with our tax dollars amount to nothing more than bribes to filmmakers, the latest one costing us $4.2 million.  Is this really the best way to spend our tax dollars?  Of course not.  This film rebate legislation should never have been renewed.

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