Saturday, November 13, 2010

Republican Senator Nancy Cassis Takes One Last Shot at Killing Michigan's Movie Industry

See that tag, "Republican"? Be sure and use it often. That way, when search engines pick up on this story, everyone will know right off that bat who is responsible for the desire to eliminate jobs and investment in Michigan and drive the creative class to other states. Re-pub-li-can. Mlive is using it, you should too. It's only fair to give credit where credit is due.

Cassis is wasting our time and tax dollars by introducing this legislation when she knows full well that there won't be any action on it this year, but if she wants this publicity - by all means, let's give it to her.

The Michigan Film Festival kicked-off Friday as uncertainty swirls around the lucrative film credits luring the industry to the state.

Michigan passed the nation's most generous movie production incentives two years ago -- refundable tax credits of up to 42 percent of direct production costs in core communities such as Grand Rapids. But a new bill would slash that credit to 28 percent in 2011, 14 percent in 2012 and end by that Oct. 1.

Slash it to 28%, and chances are the bulk of the industry will pack up and leave. That puts us behind Louisiana and Georgia. We may still get a few projects here and there, but the studios being built now, and the thousands of permanent jobs they bring with them, will be gone. Not to mention the bad reputation that Michigan would receive for enticing these people to build in the first place, only to yank the credit away. I've often wondered if a lawsuit was possible in that case - no one wants to invest millions, only to get it finished and then be told "sorry, we are going back on our deal!" Doesn't seem very "business friendly" at all now, does it?

So, we lose the jobs, we lose the money, we lose the kids, we lose the positive publicity and buzz being created about the state of Michigan, we lose our credibility with "business" - and the most infuriating thing is that Cassis simply refuses to look at the big picture of all the tangible and intangible benefits here. She still points to the Senate Fiscal Agency report as proof positive of the reason behind her crusade - when even they admit their report is incomplete. Once again:

"Estimating the revenue impact of the film incentives adopted in 2008 has been difficult and will remain vulnerable to a wide margin of error until the State has enough experience to discern the correlations between projected media activity, the claimed credits, and wider economic conditions. In addition to major uncertainties, such as those created by the current weak economic climate (and associated lending crises), the ever-changing landscape of competing film incentives in other states and countries, and the wide variation in the costs associated with different productions, a variety of more administrative issues have complicated the estimates," the paper said.

They just don't know. Maybe the agency should look at all the areas they have missed, and come back again with a complete study before we pass judgment, yes? And as far as the public goes, the last EPIC poll taken on the film credits was very illuminating on how the people of Michigan feel about this industry. The first question on the issue, read to respondents without the arguments behind it, showed 58% in favor. When the particulars of the criticisms and the benefits were presented, the total in favor of the credits actually increased to 66%. The benefits clearly outweigh Nancy's attempt at deflection here. Her argument just doesn't fly with the majority of citizens.

All of this could be why Snyder is backing off his previous stance of ending the credits and is now promising to look at them again. The fact that big-money Republicans such as John Rakolta and public officials like L. Brooks Patterson have a stake in the industry could have something to do with it as well. Rick Haglund seems to think that Andy Dillon can help out with this, and if he can, that's great, but the memory of losing Pure Michigan and the Promise Scholarship under his watch kind of takes the air out of that balloon. Best not to look to Dillon to step up and make the case.

At this point, what happens next is all on the Republicans. They will be responsible for either keeping this growing industry here, or driving it to some other state. One would hope that all of these new promises to be inclusive and look at other viewpoints are true, but given the past behavior of insisting on getting their way, regardless of facts or public opinion - don't hold your breath.