Ending incentives for production companies

Primarily known for steamed crabs and the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland has gained additional notoriety by providing filming locations for the political-themed TV shows House of Cards and Veep.

You can catch Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer depicting Washington’s political climate in local areas of the state. However, House of Cards seems to have broken the fourth wall by bringing its shady politics to Maryland.

Last winter, the company that produces House of Cards, Media Rights Capital, wrote a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley stating that the show’s third season would not be filmed in the state if the company did not receive millions of dollars more in tax credits from the state. Some would call this extortion, but O’Malley listened to Media Rights Capital and decided to allocate $11.5 million in tax credits for the filming of the upcoming season’s episodes.

While Media Rights Capital has tax credits from this state until 2016, a draft report by this state’s Department of Legislative Services says the state should cut ties with Frank Underwood and the rest of House of Cards come 2016, citing that the $62.5 million already spent on tax credits isn’t worth the 10-cent return in tax revenue on each dollar given to production companies who make their films and television shows here.

It makes sense to discontinue tax credits for production companies, with this state facing a $600 million budget shortfall next year and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan entering office in January looking to make the major spending cuts he promised when running for governor. Also, Media Rights Capital’s Hollywood bully tactics that somehow got it more money should be reason enough for this state to discontinue the relationship.

Despite the statewide fiscal aspects of this dilemma, having these shows filmed in the state does provide some benefits. House of Cards and Veep bring Hollywood limelight to the Old Line State. The shows highlight local businesses, which can result in local economic prosperity. But that publicity is only concentrated on limited areas including Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties. This makes the benefits of tax credits for House of Cards more exclusive and unfair.

These production companies do bring film and television jobs, which are severely lacking in this state. However, this job growth is neither consistent nor stable because TV shows and films are produced only for a limited time in the state.

A decision has not yet been made as to whether the state will continue tax credits and incentives for production companies that decide to film here. However, legislators would do well to think about what matters more for this state: getting out of debt and making a profit, or being featured on Netflix.

While it would be exciting to continue seeing Spacey walking past an iconic location in this state while watching the show, there just are not enough fiscal benefits to help a state so entrenched in debt.

Originally published on 12/04/14 in The Diamondback


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