What’s the Economic Impact of the Film Industry?

Regardless of what happens on Election Day, New Mexico is facing a tougher economic climate than it has faced in quite some time. We will be front and center with solutions to reduce the budget and ensure that economically-devastating tax hikes are not foisted on already reeling New Mexico taxpayers.
To this end, we have been critical of the state’s giveaways to the film industry. More articles and analysis are available on our website and blog. Recently, I found an analysis from the Arrowhead Center which is the economic research arm of New Mexico State University. Unlike so many other economic “analyses” done in this state, the Arrowhead Center takes a clear and unbiased look at the New Mexico film industry.
Some of its findings are not pretty and, not surprisingly went unreported in the media. Regarding the state’s 25% film production rebate (filmmakers receive 25% of their taxable expenses back as a rebate from taxpayers), meaning if you take your film crew out to dinner after a shoot and spend $1,000, New Mexico taxpayers pick up 25% of the tab. According to the study:

During fiscal year 2008 the NM government granted $38.195 million in rebates. The resulting increase in economic activity generated $5.518 million in revenues. The implied return is 14.44 cents on the dollar. This means that for every one dollar in rebate, the state only received 14.44 cents in return.

14 cents on the dollar? Even if you are not good at math, it is clear that the film industry tax credit is nowhere close to paying. Rather than wasting money on film subsidies, we should have been cutting taxes on all New Mexicans. With a fiscal crisis in the making, the least the Legislature can do is cut this program back significantly.