Lake of the Ozarks
Patrick Ishmael

Last year I wrote about how Georgia taxpayers were effectively subsidizing Missouri by offering tax credits to produce Netflix’s show, Ozark. While the show is set in Missouri, much of the production of Ozark actually occurs in the Peach State, thanks to the generous tax incentives offered there.

Would it be nice to have the show produced here? Sure. Is it economical to subsidize such productions? No. As with many tax incentives, research demonstrating the waste associated with film tax credits is fairly clear, so if Georgia wants to underwrite dozens of hours of (dramatic) Missouri tourism videos for us, more power to them. It may already be having a positive impact in that regard.

Unfortunately, bad ideas in Missouri tend to die hard, and that has certainly been true of the state’s film tax credit program.

Missouri hasn’t offered perks for film studios in several years — and producers have taken note, shooting scenes set in Missouri in other, more generous states.

But, if it were up to Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, the state would reboot its modest incentive program, with the goal of drawing crews to Missouri to film shows such as Netflix’s “Ozark” and HBO’s “Sharp Objects.”

“I have seen the benefits of us being a film tax credits state,” Kehoe, a Republican, told reporters on Thursday.

“Lake Ozark, Branson area, would really like to work to try to attract some moviemaking,” Kehoe said. “I think we need a small amount.”

That this topic returns again and again to the political scene in Missouri is a testament to the voracious tax credit appetite of the entertainment industry, and I can understand why filmmakers like the set up (it’s basically free money) and why politicians like it (it’s publicity, albeit far from free).

But why should taxpayers let our politicians play Louis B. Mayer to Hollywood types with their tax dollars? Rather than giving away tax money to out-of-towner production companies, elected leaders should be focused on reducing the taxes of the people already here in the state, who are far more likely to reinvest in it.


About the Author

Patrick Ishmael
Director of Government Accountability

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.