Since the start of the program, Michigan's incentives for the film industry have been controversial.

The controversy has returned to the spotlight as Michigan's next budget takes shape.

How much incentive money should Michigan give to the film industry?

Michigan's incentive program for filmmakers offers rebates of up to 42% of expenditures.

The total amount allowed of all rebates combined has changed year-to-year.  Originally, there was no cap on the total incentive that the state could pay out.

The current budget allows for $25 million, plus an additional $25 million, plus $8 million of rolled-over funds from the previous year for a total of $58 million. explains the additional $25 million in incentives:

An additional $25 million of one-time funding was put aside in the fiscal year 2013 budget for film industry subsidies, doubling the current allotment.

In the budget currently under discussion, the cap is expected to be $25 million total, not $58 million.  The one-time funding is not expected to return.  No rollover funds are expected either.

The goal of the program has been to create jobs and spark a new industry in Michigan.  That has been happening, to some degree.  Some want more incentives to encourage growth.  The Motion Picture Association of America says:

The motion picture and television industry is responsible for 14,285 direct jobs and $485.3 million in wages in Michigan, including both production and distribution-related jobs. Nearly 4,700 of the jobs are production-related.

Others says the numbers can be misleading or misunderstood. reports on a discussion of the previously uncapped incentive program:

“When people say (the current incentives program is) a tax credit, they think what that means is you’re reducing your tax liability — instead of what you owe on your taxes, we’re reducing it by 42 percent,” said Ryan Kazmirzack, a spokesman for Snyder. “That is not how it works — it is actually a subsidy. The state of Michigan literally writes a check.

"There is no way you can budget not knowing how much you have to give out.”

Supporters of a large cap or no cap program argue that the year-to-year changes create uncertainty in the future of the rebate program.  This uncertainty makes it less likely for the film industry to come to Michigan.

Opponents argue that the government should not choose "winners and losers" by providing incentives to some industries and some filmmakers, but not others.

A consistent plan would be benefit filmmakers and the State of Michigan in the long-term.  Even a small incentive should be welcomed by those in the film industry.  There are many industries and businesses which have no such opportunity.


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