Picking up the tab for millionaire movie makers - WNEM TV 5

Picking up the tab for millionaire movie makers

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Hollywood blockbusters aren't only made in Hollywood these days. In fact, thanks to some major incentives, more and more filmmakers are using Michigan as home base for their movies.

But those incentives are paid by your tax dollars and now some are wondering what exactly they are paying for.

By now, you probably know that our state offers cash rebates for movie makers to come and film in Michigan. More than $400 million since the program started in 2008. Some say it helps boost our economy but others told TV5 they fear we're rolling out the red carpet for Hollywood hotshots.

Michael LaFaive is a fiscal policy director at the Mackinac Center in Mid-Michigan. He says the state needs to provide more transparency about exactly what our tax dollars are funding.

"Sometimes it's very difficult to get detail about how the money is used. We don't know for instance what percentage of dollars goes to providing high end transportation for big wig movie stars like Clint Eastwood or others," says LaFaive. "The fact of the matter is the glitz and glam of having the Ben Afflecks and the George Clooney's of the world pass through Detroit metro and be seen around town is costing Michigan taxpayers a fortune."

Tax dollars are being used to cover post production parties. So, what else is being covered?
O'Riley says state law keeps those details private.

"Every receipt that we audit is confidential under the Freedom of Information Act," says O'Riley.

The state is giving film makers $35 million to film the new Batman vs. Superman movie in Michigan
Divide that by Michigan's nearly 4.5 million taxpayers.

That works out to the film costing taxpayers about $7.80, just about the price of a movie ticket.

This is money that's being brought in from Los Angeles and New York and being brought and spent in Michigan that would have never came to Michigan in the first place.

Brad Lyon is a Flint filmmaker who has worked on several productions here in Michigan that have qualified for the incentives. He argues that any extra jobs created or money spent here because of the incentives is a good thing.

"This is money spent on Michigan employees money spent at Michigan hotels money spent at Michigan restaurants," says Lyon.

But is this money worth the cost to us taxpayers? Are we footing the bill for Hollywood actors and directors to work and live in Michigan?

The state has a 2 million dollar cap on how much will be incented on above the line talent, so someone like a Ben Affleck, even though they might have gotten paid millions and millions for their role here, we're not going to let them take incentives against all of those earnings just up to $2 million.

TV5 asked O'Riley if they would consider adding any restrictions to these incentives?

O'Riley says there hasn't been a problem with any expenditures that have been out of line.

So in the end, Michigan taxpayers will have to take the state's word for it. That millionaire movie makers are getting the big screen breaks they deserve from our state.

The Michigan film incentive program is capped at $50 million per year.

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