Florida Censors Try to Hijack Film Credit; Repeal Would Be the Best Solution

March 08, 2010

Joe beat me to the post on Florida's boneheaded new twist on film tax credits, so I'll just add a reminder that Florida's legislature seems to be following the old government mantra: if a program isn't working, make it bigger.

Florida's film tax credit boondoggle gave away about $10.8 million in the most recent year, and as reported by the Palm Beach Post, Del. Stephen Precourt is one of many Florida legislators who want to multiply that giveaway to $75 million. But this gusher won't benefit the principal recipient of last year's credits because Del. Precourt wants to limit the recipients to what he calls family fare: no violence or swearing or smoking or drinking or nonstandard family arrangements.

That list of restrictions isn't going to please the officials running the film promotion program because $5 million of last year's $10.8 million went to the USA Network's show "Burn Notice." Set in Miami Beach, "Burn Notice" shows off more bikini-wearing beauties in one hour than any five shows you can think of. This is considered a big success by the Department of Revenue because it might attract tourists, but the T&A isn't the only offense that would make Del. Precourt strike "Burn Notice" off his credit-worthy list.

Ten minutes of "Burn Notice" rarely elapses without someone getting machine gunned or blown up or killed by a sniper. The protagonist's best friend never stops drinking, his girlfriend is a former IRA bomber with unshakably violent habits, and his mother is played by Sharon Gless as a tough old broad who smokes like a chimney.

Del. Precourt is being obnoxious and censorious but not irrational. He represents the Disney World area and is shilling for his biggest taxpayer. Disney cartoons (some of them) might be the only qualifying material by his absurd standards. But then again, the whole program is unjustified, and anyone who promoted the original credit deserves, in a way, to have it twisted into a censorship program.

The best possible result would be for this idiotic idea to shine a spotlight on how idiotic the credit program is anyway, leading to its repeal. Not long ago we published a thorough survey of film credit programs nationwide, debunking their value to state economies.

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