by Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board | April 06, 2009
State lawmakers need to see the full picture before editing the tax incentives for film makers. Senate measures that would reduce the tax credit and cap the total amount of credits given among other changes are premature. The film incentives law has only been in effect a year. It's too early to determine whether there's been so little economic benefit to the state that the incentives should be cut. Michigan clearly has made inroads into the motion picture industry and that bodes well for diversifying the economy. Flipping the script now could kill momentum. The Legislature should give the law more time.
Film industry incentives provide up to a 42 percent refundable tax credit for film or media entertainment projects in Michigan. The nation's most lucrative tax incentives did draw economic activity and jobs. The package has states including California rethinking their incentives to compete with Michigan. The new law is popular with producers, financing box office hits such as Clint Eastwood's Oscar-nominated "Gran Torino" and smaller flicks. The film was planned for Minnesota. The tax break is very generous, so it's certainly understandable why some lawmakers are concerned the incentives won't offset program expense. But the state is trying to lay a foundation for a new industry. The incentives are estimated to cost $100 million this year, and $200 million in 2010.