TALLAHASSEE — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist unveiled a plan last week to use tax incentives to lure the entertainment industry to Florida to film movies and TV shows, saying it will boost the economy , create jobs and promote the state.
“We are going to bring the film industry and the entertainment industry back to the state like never before,” he said.
It’s not a new idea — and not a hit deal for Florida taxpayers, according to state revenue analysts.
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Entertainment industry tax incentives were first offered in 2010 when Crist was governor. The program ended in 2016 when Rick Scott was governor. Overall, the state handed out $296 million in tax credits to the entertainment industry.
Reports revealed that previous incentives were not working
Two separate reports on the incentives revealed that they had fallen short. A 2015 analysis by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research showed that Florida clawed back 43 cents on every dollar in tax credits. A 2021 report from the bureau said the incentives had economic benefits, but not enough to offset the costs.
In his “Entertainment Florida” plan, Crist cites figures from the nonprofit entertainment production trade association Film Florida that the state has lost $1.5 billion in film and entertainment projects since the end of from the program. The Crist campaign also refuted the state reports, saying state analysts failed to factor in economic benefits. Quoting Film Florida, they said that every dollar donated to the incentive generates $5 in economic activity.
Other states continue to compete for tax breaks to attract film and television producers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 10 states created or expanded movie tax credits in 2021 alone. At least five did so in the first few months of 2022. The majority of states set up some sort of incentive.
Crist’s plan includes more than just incentives. He says he wants to support workforce development through industry-led training and apprenticeship programs, including creating new programs at the high school and community college levels.
He also pledged to consult with local and industry leaders and would report directly to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Board in the governor’s office.
Skylar Zander, senior adviser for Americans for Prosperity Action-Florida, a conservative group that has spoken out against incentives for years, called the plan a “bailout for [Crist’s] wealthy industry-related donors.
“It’s the very definition of wasteful government spending and it puts it on the backs of Florida voters,” Zander said in a statement.
Even progressives say that doesn’t necessarily translate into a windfall for the state coffers.
Kasia Tarczynska, senior research analyst for Good Jobs First, left, said movie grants are not an effective way to grow good jobs and the local economy, citing independent studies across the country.
Instead of offering “ineffective subsidies,” she said, Florida should work with other states to end subsidy competition.
Crist criticizes Ron DeSantis for not doing more to attract the film and television industry
In announcing his plan, Crist criticized Governor Ron DeSantis for not trying to bring more film and television production to the Sunshine State.
“When I was governor, movie incentives boosted our economy,” he said. “It is inexcusable that Governor DeSantis is not fighting for these jobs.”
The DeSantis campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Entertainment industry tax credits have received favorable support from Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature, but in recent years the legislation has not moved forward.
During this year’s legislative session, State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, sponsored a bill (SB 946) to provide tax credits of up to $2 million for construction projects. television and film that offer “high returns” on investment and economic benefits to the state. The bill required any film, television, or digital production project to employ a crew comprised primarily of Florida residents and spend at least 70% of its production days in Florida.
The bill first passed the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee, but died by the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee before it could even get a vote in the Senate.
USA Today Network-Florida government accountability reporter Douglas Soule is based in Tallahassee, Florida. He can be contacted at [email protected] Twitter: @DouglasSoule