During the Legislature’s recent lame duck session, lawmakers bypassed an opportunity to put Michigan’s film subsidy program to rest.

Instead, both the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to extend the program through 2021.

In spite of one independent study after another demonstrating that state film subsidy programs are bad investments, the practice survives in many states. In Michigan, the program did more than squeak by when the Legislature took up Senate Bill 1103. Of the 148 legislators who voted, 107 – or nearly three out of every four – voted to keep it going. Only 41 voted to let it die.

Bob Tannenwald, an adjunct lecturer at Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, authored a study on state film subsidies four years ago when he worked for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). The Center is a think tank that analyzes the impacts of budget policies from a progressive viewpoint. A key finding in that CBPP study was that “state film subsidies are costly to states and generous to movie producers.”

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