Fans of science-fiction films are familiar with the plot: An advanced race descends upon Earth with promises of a rewarding partnership and improved standard of living, only to be revealed as ravenous intergalactic parasites who intend to consume the planet’s resources before moving on to the next naive, easily exploited world.
Welcome to Hollywood, where the movie industry is as predictable as the plots it repackages. Actors, directors and producers publicly campaign for politicians who support higher taxes, but the studios consistently choose to shoot in states that offer generous film tax credits. Producers aren’t looking for long-term business relationships — they gobble up the government giveaways and are constantly searching for jurisdictions that will offer an even better deals.
Las Vegas is graced with landmarks that can’t be found anywhere else. The Strip remains a huge draw for Hollywood. But some politicians are convinced we can attract even more of Tinseltown’s business, and they’re willing to give away the store to do it.
So it was that actor and Las Vegas resident Nicolas Cage and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman were in Carson City on Tuesday to testify before the Legislature on behalf of Senate Bill 165, which would offer up to $35 million per year in tax incentives to companies that film in Nevada.
“The bottom line is determining whether we are willing to take the risk,” said bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas. “Nevada should be the top destination for films. We are letting other states pass us because we don’t offer film incentives.”
But are they passing us by? Or are they being suckered? Louisiana offers a 30 percent film tax credit, an incentive that attracted 44 movies and nine TV series in 2011. A Louisiana Legislature analysis found all that filming resulted in a $48 million net loss for the state. Gov. Bobby Jindal now wants to reduce the state’s incentives. Michigan is cutting its film handouts, too.
If Nevada lawmakers are foolish enough to take this gamble, then they can’t see the forest for the trees. Nevada businesses are struggling, including ones that have been in families for generations, companies that have been paying taxes and creating permanent jobs for decades. And they could be stuck paying a brutal 2 percent margins tax in 20 months, if voters approve it in 2014. It’s a slap to Nevada’s employers that lawmakers not only won’t help them, but support making them subsidize a state fling with an industry that won’t plant roots here.
If the Legislature passes SB165, we all know how this movie ends.