As we touched on the state's film incentive program a week or so ago, noting that it is mired in partisan political squabbles. Now comes a report from Livingstondaily.com that much of the tax break dough is leaving the state. There is a serious problem here, though, with getting to the real numbers because a state agency refuses to give out much of the financial information needed to properly assess the effects, good and bad, of the film incentive plan.
“Pressured by hearings conducted by state Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, the Michigan Film Office reported last month that 30 films made in Michigan last year reported expenditures of $104 million, of which $71 million went for salaries. State officials, however, would not say how much of that money went to the approximately 2,800 Michigan residents who snagged part-time jobs that averaged only 23 days in length.”
We dislike the word ‘only’ when used in writing a story. It betrays some form of bias in the reporting, so we are led to believe this story – a well written, finely reported one – may have a slant.
Still, there is this:
“…The Michigan Department of Treasury is required to protect all individual or company tax information, according to Michael Shore, spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., a state agency charged with business development in Michigan.
"You're now talking about someone's tax information," he said.”
We are looking into just what is public record and what it not. Tax-exempt entities are required to make their tax info public, so Shore’s defense of withholding these records, of which taxpayer money is part of, seems a little flimsy on its face. And this is not “someone’s” tax information that we care about here. It is that of a corporation which has opted to do business with the public's money. If you want your private business to stay private, then don't accept breaks that require a public concession.
And we aren’t here to do the bidding of one side or the other – it could well be that the film incentive plan is a good one. Much of the work analyzing the plan has been done by the Mackinac Center, and it is extensive. The Center for Economic Analysis at Michigan State University has done a study as well.
We’ll keep moving on this. Our guess is there is much more here than just the usual, predictable statehouse rabble.
Film Incentive Plan Assessment