Dueling Film Studies: The Analysis

Ever wondered whether New Mexico’s film subsidies have a positive or negative impact on the state economy? We’ve certainly had a hunch for a long time that such targeted and generous economic incentives are unwise and not economically beneficial.
Well, now we know…and we were right. First, there was the Arrowhead Center Study which found that the subsidies provided a return of only $.14 on the dollar. Then there was the Governor’s study by Ernst & Young which found returns of $1.50 on the dollar.
Now, there is a third study by the Legislative Finance Committee (LFC) that was buried. As our investigative journalist, Jim Scarantino discusses in his new report “A Modern Spaghetti Western: Shooting Holes in the Ernst & Young Study of Film Industry Subsidies,” the LFC found numerous problems with the Ernst & Young Study.
Among the major problems:

* Instead of looking at payroll data, Ernst & Young utilized information collected from on-line and telephone surveys of the film industry – surveys coincidentally commissioned by a defensive Film Office. Furthermore, that information was collected at a time when the film industry was aware of the growing skepticism about the generous film subsidies they were receiving.
* Then Ernst & Young did something not seen in any other film industry study. They added in the income of millionaire movie stars, producers and directors, some of whom make 100 times or more the income of a film crew member. As a result, the average New Mexico film industry job income jumped to $91,396! That figure is also higher than reported in any other film industry study – higher than studies conducted in Louisiana, Arizona, Seattle, Florida, even New York City.
* Lastly, Ernst & Young excluded the cost to taxpayers of making interest-free loans to Hollywood. At a simple annual interest rate of 5% on a $15 million loan (the largest given out under the program), taxpayers are giving up $750,000 in interest annually. On a six-year loan, the loss to taxpayers exceeds $13 million. Yet, Ernst & Young completely excluded this enormous expense from its calculations of the cost to New Mexico of the film industry subsidies.

The fact is that New Mexico’s film industry is not a money-maker for taxpayers and with $60 million being spent annually to attract the industry, legislators need to cap or reduce the generosity of these subsidies. Using the leftover money to cut taxes on all New Mexico businesses would be a nice way to use the money to increase economic growth.