from the we-NEED-to-throw-this-money-down-a-hole,-but-WHICH-ONE? dept
"Can you tell me why video games need a tax incentive?" Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, asked Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio at one point.They may be right -- these tax incentives aren't paying off. After all, EA received $9.1 million during the 2011-12 fiscal year and is looking to score another $14.5 million to underwrite (full retail price!) roster updates for Madden NFL, NCAA Football and the latest iteration of Tiger Woods PGA Tour. EA, which has been in Central Florida since long before the subsidy train started rolling, defended its grab of state incentives by saying the money has "motivated the company to expand its Central Florida workforce during the last three years." That may be true about the last three years, but as is pointed out elsewhere in the article, EA employs fewer people today than it did in 2007.
"I just don't see video games as an issue that's going to bring a lot of people to Florida and [bring] big expenditures," added state Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Coconut Grove.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think EA should be given tax breaks and other incentives in order to continue operating in Florida. In fact, I'm of the opinion that if a business needs subsidies to get by, it's probably not much of a business. However, they are a fact of life at this point, and giving businesses a tax break to move to your state is a powerful persuader. Many locales compete for the affections (and taxable revenue) of large companies, throwing larger and larger amounts money at them in hopes of a decent return on their investment.
If these legislators want to drop the subsidies, more power to them. Unfortunately, they don't want to get rid of subsidies. They just want to throw the money in another direction.
"To have such a concentration of it going to games — I mean, people sitting at computer terminals — I'm not sure most of us really think that's film," said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. "Film is movies. … People have to hire a lot of folks and they have meals and have to stay in a hotel room."Oh, I see. You just want to take these extraneous fiscal crutches and offer them to a different member of the entertainment industry. This doesn't really change anything. Sure, legislators want to believe that a big Hollywood production will boost the local economy for the duration of the shooting, but prior experience shows that Hollywood-aimed subsidies rarely improve the financial situation of anyone other than the studio receiving them.
"I think we ought to be focused on those kinds of things [rather] than games," he added.
"Do you consider any difference if a company is already situated in Florida and has a stable workforce, compared to a company that comes into the state and hires people that might not be hired otherwise, purchases food for the people they've hired, provides lodging for them?" [Sen. Geraldine] Thompson asked.
As was previously covered here, a study showed that nearly every subsidy program developed to attract motion picture studios to various locations has turned out to be a losing proposition. Most of the states studied recovered less than $0.25 on every tax dollar invested. Why? Because when a studio rolls into town to shoot a movie, it brings in a lot of its own talent. Sure, there are some temporary bumps to food and housing income, but when it's all said and done, the studios roll out of town slightly richer, leaving their hosts stuck with the bill.
Despite these losses, states continue to wave ever-increasing amounts of money in the air while shouting "Pick me!" at every passing entertainment concern, gambling away their constituents' tax dollars. Florida's legislators seem to be no different. They've mistaken movie studios for good-natured philanthropists and written off "people sitting at computer terminals" as a drain on the economy. It's a "spend money to make money" plan that has failed to pay off time and time again. All these legislators are arguing over is on which losing horse they should put their money.