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AFP calls on Gov. Scott to ignore calls to include film incentive package in Special Session

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Two days after Film Florida penned a letter to Florida’s legislative leaders that they wanted a tax incentives production package for film and television included in the special session that starts up next month, opposition arrived in the form of a letter sent to Gov. Rick Scott authored by the state leader for Americans for Prosperity.

AFP has also lobbied hard against a tax incentive package for stadiums this session, and both proposals were referred to in the letter to the governor.

“It has been shown by the State’s own economists that sports and film incentive spending is a poor investment of taxpayer dollars – particularly when such spending has nothing to do with core functions of government,” writes Chris Hudson, AFP’s state director in Florida. “The highest estimate for return on investment (ROI) that the existing film incentive tax credit program was able to produce was 43 cents on the dollar, and the maximum ROI produced by professional sports stadium incentives was only 30 cents on the dollar.”

That’s a reference to a report published in January by the Florida Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research showing the state receives just 43 cents back per dollar it awards in tax incentives to productions. That amounts to a loss of almost $170 million on the $296 million in incentives that were first released in 2010.

Michael Williams, a spokesman for House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday that “we are still working on the call for special session, and nothing has been finalized at this time.”

Here’s AFP’s letter:

Governor Scott:

“On behalf of the more than 146,000 Americans for Prosperity activists in Florida, we are writing to oppose the placement of SB 1214 and any similar legislation which includes taxpayer-backed “incentives” for professional sport or film companies on the agenda for the June 1-20, 2015 special session.

“It has been shown by the State’s own economists that sports and film incentive spending is a poor investment of taxpayer dollars – particularly when such spending has nothing to do with core functions of government. The highest estimate for return on investment (ROI) that the existing film incentive tax credit program was able to produce was 43 cents on the dollar, and the maximum ROI produced by professional sports stadium incentives was only 30 cents on the dollar.

“Both industries are glamorous and exciting and, their backers have been very effective in persuading state and local politicians to provide lucrative giveaways to their private enterprises. However, the core function of government is not to subsidize glamorous industries – which are competing with essential services like public safety, transportation and education for limited taxpayer resources.

“Americans for Prosperity wants to see Florida grow and continue to excel. But the best way to encourage sustainable, meaningful growth is through policy that all Floridians can benefit from, not just favored industries. Broad based tax cuts, such as those you proposed earlier this year, limits to onerous regulations, and increased educational options for Floridians can do so much more than targeted incentive programs for the well-connected film and sports industries ever could.

“It is clear that the legislature has much more important issues to resolve. Spending time on the consideration of special carve-outs for film and sports incentives will only serve as a distraction from the important work of passing the budget and keeping Florida moving forward.

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration. Sincerely,

Chris Hudson
Florida State Director, Americans for Prosperity

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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