Budget & Tax
Staff | April 20, 2021
OCPA: $50 million for Hollywood is fiscal and social folly
Contact: Sheridan Betts
OCPA: $50 million in Hollywood is fiscal and social folly
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 20, 2021)— Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), today called on lawmakers to reject legislation that would provide up to $50 million annually in state subsidies to film productions at the same time many Hollywood officials are attacking other states for passing pro-life and election-security laws.
“This session, many lawmakers have balked at expanding Oklahoma’s successful tax-credit scholarship program for low- and middle-income children, but now appear ready to dump millions more down the burn barrel that is our state’s film-subsidy program,” Small said. “To make matters worse, state lawmakers appear poised to not only take tens of millions away from hard-working Oklahoma families, but they will also give those millions to Hollywood elites who are actively lobbying against pro-life and election-security measures and other laws supported by most Oklahomans. This isn’t just bad policy, it’s a slap in the face to Oklahomans.”
An amendment filed to Senate Bill 608 creates the “Filmed In Oklahoma Act of 2021.” The legislation would provide up to $50 million in annual rebate payments to film productions shot, at least in part, in Oklahoma, a dramatic increase compared to the $8 million in annual subsidies provided by the existing program.
The legislation has been filed as filmmakers are trying to influence Georgia policymakers by threatening to yank productions out of that state.
In 2019, after the enactment of a Georgia law banning abortion after a heartbeat can be detected from an unborn child, numerous officials in the entertainment industry threatened to pull projects out of Georgia in retaliation, including officials with Netflix and Disney.
This year, some in the entertainment industry are making similar threats following the passage of a Georgia law that altered voting procedures. Critics claimed the law, which eliminated signature-matching as a form of verification for absentee voting and replaced it with a requirement for a form of voter ID, was too restrictive. Those attacks were lobbed even though the Georgia law provides more opportunity for absentee and early voting than what occurs in several other states, including New York.
Many reasons cited by entertainment officials for potentially moving productions out of Georgia also pertain to Oklahoma.
In December 2018, a report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion, declared Oklahoma to be one of 21 states that were “hostile or very hostile to abortion rights.”
In 2019, actress and political activist Alyssa Milano released a “State-by-State Guide to Abortion Rights for the Entertainment Industry,” declaring that “it has become apparent that those in our industry need to be able to make informed choices on where they will and will not work.” That report encouraged filmmakers to shoot productions in more abortion-friendly states than Oklahoma that not only offer less generous subsidies but, in some cases, provide no film subsidies at all.
Oklahoma’s voting processes are also less expansive than those now under attack in Georgia.
“Anyone who believes Hollywood filmmakers are going to view Oklahoma as more ‘woke’ than Georgia should be subjected to mandatory drug testing,” Small said.
Expert evaluations have consistently shown that film tax credits do not generate lasting economic benefits. Consultants hired by Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission have previously said film subsidies are not economically beneficial and urged lawmakers to eliminate Oklahoma’s film tax credit.
“There is no evidence that the Oklahoma film industry has strengthened during the time period when the rebate has been available,” the consultants’ evaluation stated. “Documented job creation is neither stable nor sustainable absent state support. The effect on Oklahoma’s image nationwide is unclear, but likely limited.”
A study published in 2016 in the American Review of Public Administration reviewed the motion picture incentive programs of 40 states, including the use of transferable tax credits and refundable tax credits. The study found, “Neither credit affected gross state product or motion picture industry concentration.”
“This Hollywood boondoggle will generate no significant lasting economic benefit for Oklahoma,” Small said. “Instead, it will only identify Oklahoma as a state whose politicians are willing to trade away their prize cow for the promise of ‘magic beans.’”
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs is a free-market think tank that works to advance principles and policies that support free enterprise, limited government, individual initiative and personal responsibility.