Is the glass half-empty or half full on the film loan program?

“Film Loans Fizzle.” That’s the headline of the front page story in today’s Albuquerque Journal. The rest of the story treats us to whining from the “usual suspects” on the difficulty of obtaining interest-free loans for film projects and their desire to alter the terms of such loans. It all sounds so sad…another government program that just isn’t being adequately funded.

The reality is much more optimistic, at least for taxpayers. After all, right there in the story is the explanation that the state made $1.4 million on loans totaling $240 million under the original, generous program, for a return of about 0.6 percent. Not exactly a stellar return on investment even in these low interest rate times. According to the story, the same $240 million invested in government treasuries instead of film productions would have generated more than $31 million over the same period. In other words, the changes to the program arguably saved taxpayers $30 million. This is GOOD NEWS!

Unfortunately, the author of the piece talked to film advocates, not taxpayer advocates, so the piece is gloomy in tone when it should be singing the praises of Gov. Martinez and the folks (like the Rio Grande Foundation) who advocated for these reforms.