A report by Heath Haussamen this morning clarifies why, in the middle of the worst state fiscal crisis since the 1930s, the legislature refused to cut the Hollywood film tax credit, which credible analysts say returns about 14 cents to New Mexico for every dollar spent: Governor Bill is looking for a million-dollar paying job with the film industry! Taxpayers have therefore paid $174 million in the past two years alone, to pave the way for Richardson to have a good chance at it! Richardson, of course denies that he even wants the job. But as Houssamen points out, this is what he says every time he starts looking for a job. You think he'd turn it down if offered?
Here's one way of looking at how the Senate wants you to pay next year for the $92 million it will cost to reimburse Hollywood one quarter of all expenses paid in New Mexico while filming. The Senate budget bill taxes out-of state businesses an extra $12 million next year by increasing the number of firms subject to the compensation tax. Then it adds $24 million next year by taxing smokers an extra 50 cents per pack. Then it raises $60 million by increasing gross receipts taxes by one eighth of one percent. All in all this raises $96 million, 4 more than needed to pay for Hollywood's welfare check this year.
The Senate last night opted to raise taxes $238 million next year. Fully 39% of that amount could have been saved by telling Hollywood, sorry, but New Mexico is in a fiscal crisis and we don't think New Mexicans can afford to cut you a welfare check next year.
The real question here is why the legislature, more than a year after the governor disgraced himself with all the revelations of wrong-doing, would go along with this. A bill to do away with the film credit died in the House Labor and Human Resources Committee by a vote of 5-2. No debate, no hearing in other committees, just dead on arrival. Why would this be so? Why are the governor's sacred cows, which seem sleazier every day, so sacred to the legislature? Why no outrage? Why such silence from people we elected to represent our interests?