The 2015 session of the Arizona Legislature is officially underway. For taxpayer advocates like us, it’s the start of our busy season. Time to get to work supporting good ideas and defeating bad ideas, including – as is often the case – the same bad ideas that we defeated last year.
Last session, Sen. Carlyle Begay sponsored legislation that would have created a the office of Film and Media, a new state agency at a cost of over $600,000. The bill stalled in the Senate, but has been revived again this year as House Bill 2144.
Proponents of HB 2144 are claiming that the state needs a taxpayer funded advocate to promote the movie industry in Arizona. This of course is a very dubious reason to create a entirely new office, and even if it were a good idea, it is a job better left to the private sector, not taxpayers.
We also suspect that film promotion in Arizona is not the only purpose this office will serve. For years policymakers have talked to 20th Century Fox and other media interests, asking what it would take to get them to film here in Arizona. Their answer has always been the same: bring back the Hollywood tax credit, and we’ll consider it. As you may recall, this multi-million dollar taxpayer handout to Hollywood studios expired in 2010 (costing taxpayers millions), but advocates of this blatant corporate welfare have been trying to revive it ever since. They have failed to convince lawmakers on their own, so now it looks like they want to create a taxpayer-funded commission to assist them in their efforts.
These are no ordinary times. Gov. Ducey and Legislative leaders are preparing to tackle a massive budget deficit, notwithstanding the uncertainty of ongoing court cases that will decide Constitutional mandates over education and Medicaid funding. To add an entirely new government agency in the midst of this crisis, whose sole job will be to figure out how to direct more taxpayer money to the multi-billion dollar film industry, is simply ridiculous.
Hollywood studios already employ an army of high-priced lobbyists to seek out taxpayer subsidies, they don’t need Arizona taxpayers to pay for another one.