October 15, 2008

3632_1165863873.jpgThursday, October 15th, 2008

Baton Rouge, Louisiana




How much is it worth for Louisiana taxpayers to have movies made throughout the state?   Apparently, quite a lot.  Recent studies have shown that for every new dollar created in jobs, equipment, catering and all the spin off income, Louisiana tax payers are paying out four times that amount. Bring a dollar in and pay from the state treasury four dollars out.  What kind of deal is this?

A few years ago, the Louisiana Legislature authorized a program to offer significant subsidies to motion picture producers who shoot their films in the state.  The program was designed to increase local film production, and producers from all the big Hollywood studios rushed to cash in.  Louisiana’s Office of Economic Development has bragged for years about all the new jobs the program created, and the domino effect of dollars being spent in the state.  But no one recently has put a pencil to the bottom line.  Neither Louisiana’s taxpayers, nor few in state government, have any idea how of just how much this program is really costing.

Brad Pitt has a new movie coming out soon titled “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” that was only partially filmed in Louisiana.  Yet the movie will receive a Louisiana tax subsidy of $27,117,737.  The entire budget is $167 million, and just last week, the New York Times called the cost to Louisiana taxpayers “shocking.”  So the question is whether this glamour business is bringing economic development to Louisiana, or is the state getting little more than momentary glitter?

 Louisiana also has a reputation in Hollywood of playing fast and loose with the rules in place.  The program’s director until last year pleaded guilty to taking $67,000 in bribes to inflate budgets for film production.  The higher the budget, the more the program costs taxpayers. 

And get this.  Until a year ago, a production company filming in Louisiana could get tax credits for work done outside the state.  So we are talking here about inflated budgets and work done outside Louisiana, all underwritten by Louisiana taxpayers.  Is that a good deal or what?

Two years ago, the legislative fiscal office in Louisiana did a study showing that gross tax revenues from all movie production sources, including jobs, rentals, catering, and all other spinoffs brought in a total to the state of approximately $50 million.  Only half of this sum went to the state treasury, where the other half went to the coffers of local government.  But the tax credits for all this work, money taken away from the state treasury, totaled $232 million.  So the state brings in 25 million, and pays out 232 million.  That’s an eight to one ratio negative to the bottom line. What am I missing here?

But it gets even better (or worse if you are a Louisiana taxpayer).  These tax credits are transferable and for sale to anyone in the state that needs a big tax write off.  The tax credits are either sold directly or through a broker.  These brokers charge a fee of 20%, keep 10%, and sell the tax credit for 90%.  So someone that has nothing to do with the movie industry is paying a discounted rate for a tax credit that helps them avoid their state taxes.

The Executive Director of the nonprofit Massachusetts Policy Center issued a report recently that stated: “There is no evidence yet that this is an efficient or effective way to create jobs.”  The study went on to point out the tax credits in most states are four or five times higher than that offered to those who build in designated economic opportunity areas, and often more than eight times greater than the standard investment tax credit.

So far, Louisiana legislators have shown little interest in reviewing the economic impact on the state’s treasury.  One voice raising questions is that of Greg Albrecht, who is the chief economist for Louisiana’s legislative fiscal office.  “There’s no way you can say this makes money for the public treasury,” he said recently.  “It’s an expensive way to create jobs.  We can afford it now because of the rising oil and gas revenue.  We’re happy as larks right now to do this,” he says.  But he shares concerns about the future.

The director of Louisiana’s Office of Entertainment Industry Development sees it differently.  “All areas of the state have prospered as a result – everyone sees it,” said Sherry McDonnell.  But she admitted that there are no current figures by which to judge the economic impact to the state, although there is a planned study that is supposed to be ready next year.

Forty states now offer various subsidies and brag about their low – cost production sites.  With so much competition, any study to be made about the financial impact in Louisiana should look at whether giving such abundant tax breaks makes it economically feasible to offer such attractive incentives.  With Louisiana taxpayers having to help bail out Wall Street and taking quite a hit in their own pocketbooks, the state cannot afford the luxury of trying to paint itself as Hollywood East unless the bottom line makes sense.  And right now, the financial benefits look questionable.


“The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.”

 Ronald Reagan

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown


That’s right.  Jim’ NEW book is now in print and available for your review.

It’s called:  Adventures in an Alternative Reality of Living in Louisiana-Enter at Your Own Risk.”

Quite a title.  You can check out the new book, and find out how to order it by simply going to his publishing site at http://www.authorhouse.com/bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=54455

The book is a continuation of Jim’s perspective, often zany and offbeat, but full of “on the mark” insights of Louisiana political and social life.  So give it a look.  It’s available in both hardback and paperback.


Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana.  You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at www.jimbrownla.com.     Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.







Sunday News Lancaster, PA February 29, 2004 | pwolf Ex-editor finds a new Habitat in Lancaster County By Paula Wolf Sunday News Staff Writerpwolflnpnews.com After a number of years working in the newspaper business, Jeff Pijanowski decided to make a 180-degree career turn.

A longtime volunteer with Habitat for Humanity on Long Island, the father of three left his position as news editor/Sunday and Monday business sections for Newsday to take over as the new executive director of Lancaster Area Habitat for Humanity.

He began his new job last month.

Pijanowski succeeds Francis McCaffrey, who retired after more than seven years as executive director.

Hometown: Buffalo.

Family: Wife Kathy and daughters Becky, 20; Lura Kate, 9; and Carolyn, 5.

Education: Bachelors in journalism from the University of Houston; also attended St. Bonaventure University.

What led me to switch careers: I had been an editor at Newsday, a 600,000 daily circulation newspaper on Long Island, since 1986. I spent 15 months after 9/11 on a section of the paper called The Lost, where we profiled every victim. In that job I occasionally would contact the families for information or photos, and I got to listen firsthand to many of their stories. It made me realize that even though I was in a solid position at a top 10 paper, a position that many journalists would crave, my career wasnt helping anyone live through their struggles or improve their lives. I had been the board president for the Suffolk County Habitat for Humanity affiliate on Long Island for a few years, but that was a volunteer position. When I saw this opening for the Lancaster executive director, I jumped at it. here 2002 honda accord

When and how I first got involved with Habitat: In 1992, my church got involved in a house project on Long Island. My friend and I were assigned to do siding on the back of the house. In the pouring rain, we both worked hours to get that siding up. We summoned the construction supervisor over to praise us for the job we did, but he took one look at it and, in horror, yelled: You idiots! You put it up upside down! He immediately made us rip it up and redo it in the rain. He also declared: You guys must be in management. I started on the board of directors the very next week.

What I enjoy most about my new job: Meeting new people. The board and staff here are great, and the community has been very welcoming to me and my family.

My early impressions of Lancaster County: Ive enjoyed the scenery and historic richness of the area.

My nonprofessional interests include: The Buffalo Bills, traveling (I like trains and the Caribbean), college basketball, baseball, hockey, astronomy and, oh yes, did I mention the Buffalo Bills?

My greatest accomplishment: Persuading my wife to say I do. It wasnt easy.

My unfulfilled ambition: I want to build so many homes that substandard housing in Lancaster County is eliminated. go to web site 2002 honda accord

My first job: Paperboy for the Buffalo Courier-Express. It was a morning paper. Man, talk about cold. Try walking around a Buffalo neighborhood at 6 a.m. with 100 newspapers in a wagon and a fresh coat of 6 inches of snow.

Who in the world Id most like to have dinner with: Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat. I have met him four or five times, and he has a fascinating history.

Favorite TV shows: Cheers, Whose Line Is It Anyway? The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Seinfeld. Anything that makes me laugh.

The best book Ive read recently: Reporting World War II: American Journalism 1938-1946, a collection of news copy filed during World War II. For instance, the other day I read Ernie Pyles report on the identification of a slain infantry officer. As an editor, I marvel at the writing. As a person who dealt with the World Trade Center story, I understand the emotions.

The best movie Ive seen recently: Miracle.

My idea of exercise: Raising my hand for the hot dog vendor at a ballgame.

My favorite vacation spot: Barbados.

I always try to avoid: Boring people.

My idea of a good time: Going to a comedy club with friends, or spending a day at the park with my wife and kids.

The car I drive: A 2002 Honda Accord.

The car Id like to drive: A 1956 white Thunderbird, with all the accessories Two words that describe me: Easygoing guy.

Something that can always be found in my refrigerator: A light bulb.

A miracle gadget Id like to see invented: A laser first-down marker that can be seen by the refs.

Ten years from now Id like to be: On a beach with my wife enjoying retirement.

Twenty years from now Id like to be: Celebrating the 10th anniversary of my retirement.DeEd pwolf


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