‘The Snooki subsidy:’ Christie preemptively strikes on film tax credit

FORT LEE – An hour before two Bergen County senators are scheduled to call for a new installation of the New Jersey Film and Digital Tax Credit Program, Gov. Chris Christie’s press office crumbled any footing that existed for the bill they dubbed “the Snooki subsidy.”

State Sens. Paul Sarlo (D-36), of Wood-Ridge, and Loretta Weinberg (D-37), of Teaneck, are holding a press conference today in Fort Lee – the pre-Hollywood center of the film industry – to re-ignite the call for the movie and TV tax break.

But Christie’s people sent out a scathing pre-rebuttal against the legislation. When word surfaced recently that the tax credit was extended to MTV’s “Jersey Shore” reality show, despite being a champion of the bill, Sarlo told the Star-Ledger: “Let us just hope against hope that New Jersey taxpayers don’t end up paying for Snooki’s bail the next time she is arrested. What a terrible, terrible and misguided waste.”

Christie’s people juxtaposed that quote with Sarlo and Weinberg’s press release for today’s event: “New Jersey’s film and media tax credit was a proven success, creating job opportunities and encouraging private investment in our economy.”

In February, the state Economic Development Authority released a report on the tax break that recommends ending the program due to “questionable returns.”

The report cites Dr. Charles Steindel, chief economist at the state Department of the Treasury: “My conclusion from the data and analysis in the report is that the credit provides little or no stimulus to state output and employment, and any revenue generated from the additional activity is likely to fall short of the dollar cost of the credit.”

Steindel stated, “In light of ongoing reductions in film tax credits in some other states, it appears the policy tide is starting to run against the use of these programs as tools to promote economic growth.”

Christie’s team quoted Tax Foundation Adjunct Scholar William Luther, who claims these movie production incentives “fail to spur economic growth or raise tax revenue” and only create “temporary (employment) positions with limited upward mobility.”

“The only thing these incentives create is the need for ongoing credits and subsidies,” Luther said. “As other states sweeten their incentives, productions move on.”

The administration also cited the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Like a Hollywood fantasy, claims that tax subsidies for film and TV productions — which nearly every state has adopted in recent years — are cost-effective tools of job and income creation are more fiction than fact. In the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck.”


  ‘The Snooki subsidy:’ Christie preemptively strikes on film tax credit