Illinois' Movie Bailout

Extending tax credit among Blago's last acts

One of Rod Blagojevich's last acts as governor was to sign into law a tax credit of 30 percent for movie productions that film in Illinois.

That's a 10 percent rise over the previous rate of 20 percent - and, perhaps more importantly, the governor and state lawmakers eliminated the annual sunset clause that forced a review of the tax credit every year.

A new study by the state of Wisconsin of its 25 percent tax credit, though, is just the latest that pierces the logic of those perhaps a bit blinded by the thought of Hollywood stars traipsing through our streets.

"It costs taxpayers 20 times more to create a job using the state’s movie tax incentive program than it does using other state job creation programs," the Wisconsin State Journal reports.

“This program is 20 times more expensive for each job we create,” Deputy Commerce Secretary Aaron Olver told the paper. “And when you look at major out-of-state films, the cost ratio is off the charts.”

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle eliminated the tax credit in his latest budget, calling it "fundamentally flawed," according to the Wisconsin Radio Network.

Illinois was moved to sweeten its tax package in part because it feared losing productions to Michigan and its new 42 percent credit. The regrets set in soon in Michigan, at least among some lawmakers, and officials from other states say that they, too, have learned their lesson.

In December, the executive director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center told the New York Times that "There’s no evidence yet that this is a particularly efficient or effective way to create jobs.

Simillary, the chief economist of Louisiana's legislative fiscal office said “There’s no way you can say this makes money for the public."

State Sen. Rickey Hendon and state Rep. Ken Dunkin have sponsored film tax credit legislation since at least 2003. State records show that the Illinois Production Alliance has focused much of its campaign contributions on Dunkin, Hendon, Blagojevich, Michael Madigan and former Republican state senate leader Frank Watson.

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