Separating fact from fiction in debate over film tax credits - Tucson Local Media: News

Separating fact from fiction in debate over film tax credits

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Posted: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 4:00 am

Those who know me, know that I have worked hard to limit the size of government, balance our state’s budget, and get our state’s economy growing again.  They know that I had signs made up that read “Jobs are Job #1” and had them distributed to my colleagues in the Arizona Legislature. And they know that I have had to battle against liberal candidates and groups every two years as part of this struggle.

Joining me in the effort to restore fiscal sanity to our state’s budget and economy have been a variety of pro-taxpayer groups, including the Arizona Free Enterprise Club.  So more than a few of my supporters were surprised to see the AZFEC attacking me in newspapers and even in mailers sent to Republican voters in my district.  Their complaint?  That I was supporting a tax credit for the film industry for films that would be shot here in Arizona.  Some people did not understand why they were attacking me weeks after the bill died, instead of during the debate over the bill itself. Others were upset that they were using pictures of wild-eyed liberals like Barbra Streisand and Michael Moore next to my picture in an attempt to get Republicans riled up.  Almost no one was actually upset about the idea of Arizona trying to get back business that had been taken from us by states like New Mexico after our old tax credit program expired.

Still, it is better to have too much information in the public arena than too little, so I thought a defense of the tax credit would be a good idea, since this outside group wanted to have the debate.

 First, the good people at AZFEC and I agree about 99 percent of the time.  If you and I agree 99 percent of the time, I’m going to consider you a very good friend and ally.  And I actually still consider AZFEC to be good friends and allies.  I understand that they are trying to punish me for introducing the bill so that they can send a message to other legislators around the state.  That’s why the attacks came after the bill had already died in the Legislature. Still, if you want to make a difference in politics, you need to be prepared to have people say bad things about you, and you have to know what you believe, so that you aren’t manipulated by every attack launched your way.

My focus remains on creating good paying jobs, and according to studies performed on this bill, it would have created nearly 5,000 full-time jobs, more than half of which would be direct employment within the Arizona film industry itself.  When you consider that the average annual wage within the Arizona film industry is nearly $53,000 (compared to the statewide average of $39,000 across all occupations) you realize that these would be great jobs to have.  There is, after all, a reason that states like New Mexico are going out of their way to take them from us.

Better still, for Arizona taxpayers, a study by ESI Corp. determined that for every $1 the State of Arizona spent on these tax credits, the State of Arizona would recover $1.08 in revenue for the State’s General Fund.  So the net effect of these tax incentives would be to create jobs, spur growth, and actually increase revenue.

 That isn’t a surprise to conservatives.  When you cut taxes or offer tax incentives, you spur economic growth and the net effect has historically been an increase in tax revenues.  The good people at AZFEC object because they don’t want any specific industry to benefit, worrying that we are “picking winners and losers.”  I share this concern, especially as it applies to scandals like Solyndra and the like.  But we aren’t singling out specific companies for sweetheart deals or anything like that.  We are competing with other states to bring high-paying jobs to Arizona and in the process, strengthening our economy and increasing our tax revenues.

I’ll be the first to oppose wasteful spending or sweetheart deals, but when I say “Jobs are Job #1” I mean it.  And I’ll keep that campaign promise every time.

(Editor’s Note: Al Melvin is a state senator for District 11.)

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