Hollywood snookers W.Va. (Again)

Hollywood snookers W.Va. (Again)

Neighboring West Virginia has decided to jump back into the meager-gain abyss that is the film tax credit. Some people never learn.

As MetroNews reports it, the Mountain State killed the credit for movie and TV-series makers in 2018. That was when West Virginia “was facing budget shortfalls that required identifying spending the state could sacrifice.”

Well, that should tell you something: On net, the credit spending resulted in no significant returns. In other words, it wasn’t simply a bad investment, the word “investment” was oxymoronic.

Simply put, as the news site’s Brad McElhinny reported it:

“That year (2018), the Legislative Auditor’s staff recommended doing away with the credits. ‘The film tax credit has produced minimal economic benefit to West Virginia,’ the Legislative Auditor’s report concluded.”

From that report:

The Film Office was party to “the production of misleading, inflated reports, and incomplete records.”

Translation: The credit was a dog that would not hunt but officials taped a gun to its paws to give the impression that it did.

So, why restore a tax credit whose returns offered only “minimal economic benefit”? Reasonable people would be wise to wonder if even those minimal benefits were inflated.

Delegate Dianna Graves, a Charleston-area Republican, told MetroNews that the restored measure will come with beefed up audit procedures and other safeguards, plus an annual sunset provision to review the film tax credit’s value.

That’s all well and good. But if the tax credit offers big breaks for Hollywood types that little benefit West Virginians giving the big breaks, no amount of increased oversight will magically turn a shortsighted investment into any kind of economic driver.

Cue the dog. Cue the tape. Cue the gun.

Film tax credits are one thing and one thing only: Corporate wealthfare for Hollywood elites who have become experts in shaking down state legislatures all over the country filled with members of all partisan stripes with permanent stars in their eyes.

The bill of particulars against film tax credits long has been clear in Pennsylvania and other states. That neighboring West Virginia legislators are buying into the fiction that it is not – that just more oversight will produce bona fide benefits — is a telling commentary on their propensity to be snookered.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).