Maine’s lame excuse for spring has arrived. Time to clean the fungus out of my in-box.
Cinematic tax breaks. There are a few things on which state governments should never waste taxpayers’ money:
Sports stadiums. They always end up costing more than predicted. They always return less revenue than promised. They always compromise the integrity of any politician who comes within a bunt single of the owner.
Wind farms. They always produce less power than promised. They always look like a blot on the landscape. They always compromise the integrity of any politician who comes within a fan blade of the ownership.
Anything with “Trump” in the name. See all of the above.
Add to that list the movie industry. There’s currently a bill in the Legislature to increase the tax breaks Maine gives to filmmakers who want to use the state’s scenery for background. According to supporters, the return on that investment would be significant.
Except most studies say exactly the opposite. Here’s what a witty, handsome and insightful columnist discovered when he researched the issue back in 2014:
“A 2012 study by the Tax Foundation found that incentives for movie companies nationwide produced an average of 30 cents in new taxes for every buck in old taxes that was given away to Hollywood moguls. In other words, Maine spent about $3 million in public funds last year to earn a return of less than $1 million.”
The numbers (and my opinion) haven’t changed since then.
If the state wants to squander money to promote economic development, it makes more sense to hand it out to businesses that permanently locate here, creating a long-term boost to employment. Subsidizing traveling carnie shows helps a few underemployed wannabe stars while diverting funds from vital state needs.
Don’t poo-poo this idea. I only had one question after reading this headline in a February edition of the Lewiston Sun Journal:
“Collins pushes for emergency funding for diaper banks.”
Do they take deposits?
On the other hand, do poo-poo this idea. I only had one question after reading this headline in the April 5 Portland Press Herald:
“Earmarks returning to Congress, where Maine’s delegation has outsize influence in the right places.”
Does the Press Herald get paid for handling public relations for our U.S. senators and representatives?
The article insists that Sen. Susan Collins will wield considerable power over transportation and housing funding because she’s the “ranking Republican” on the Senate subcommittee that allocates that money. “Raking Republican” is another way of saying “most important person on the losing end of every vote.”
The story also puffs up Democratic Rep. Chellie Pingree because she chairs a House subcommittee that oversees spending to protect the environment and national parks. That’s less than 1 percent of the federal budget, which is a filibuster override shy of “outsize influence.”
Yips from G.I.P.s. Maine’s Green Independent Party could use a little of that free publicity the Portland paper is handing out. According to a March email from the Greenies marked “not for publication,” the news media is always getting the party’s name wrong. For instance, “Greenies” is not the officially approved term for referencing Green Independent Party members.
Uh oh, neither is “Green Independent Party members.” We’re supposed to use “Green Independents.” Or we can use “Greens,” although that’s “not preferred.”
“We expect journalists to report accurately and factually by referring to us by our legally correct designations,” the email scolds.
I take that to mean the G.I.P. isn’t going to be happy with “Green Irrelevant Party.”
That does not register. Legislative Democrats are pushing a bill to allow online voter registration. This despite the state already having among the highest voter-participation rates in the nation. This despite the fact that computer-system breaches by hackers are a common occurrence. This despite the fact that other online state systems, such as those at the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services, have suffered frequent failures.
Could this possibly be one of those cases where we’d be better off leaving well enough alone?
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