Tax Credit Insanity
It’s said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Missouri’s economy has lagged much of country over the past decade. And for more than twenty years, Missouri has been a national leader in awarding tax credits for private gain in the name of “economic development.” If issuing tax credits were a good way to spur growth, our state would have one of the fastest-growing economies in the country. But it’s not, so we don’t.
Unfortunately, despite years of evidence that economic development tax credits don’t work, state policymakers appear to be doubling down on this wrongheaded approach. After more than a decade dormant, Missouri’s film tax credit is on the path to returning. The Senate approved a bill rebooting the program, and a House committee recently voted out a separate measure including the credit. All of this for a program that was so bad our elected officials got rid of it in 2013.
Countless reports, studies, and audits reached the same conclusion: the program is a horrible investment. It serves too narrow of an industry to help grow a state’s economy. Much of the credit’s benefit goes to out-of-state companies and workers. And further, the tax credits do not generate sufficient tax revenues to justify the subsidy. While it is true that many other states currently offer some form of film subsidy, that is not an excuse for Missouri to rejoin this race to the bottom.
As we enter the second half of this year’s legislative session, there’s still time for our elected officials to reverse course. It’s understandable that policymakers would be interested in finding policies that would help get Missouri’s economy back on the right track, but government picking winners and losers isn’t the way to do that.
In fact, turning around Missouri’s economy doesn’t have to be as difficult as our elected officials are making it seem. If taxes are too high for the film industry to consider Missouri, instead of subsidizing Hollywood, policymakers should focus on lowering the tax burden for all Missourians. At the very least, our elected officials need to stop advancing policies that we already know don’t work. Bringing back the film tax credit is not just a bad idea—it’s an insane one.