Secretive Film Subsidies Expose Need for Greater Transparency

March 13, 2023

Plus, how students pay for corporate tax breaks: a special event

Sunshine Week 2023

Huge gaps in economic development transparency persist; how the CHIPS & Science Act could help ease the gender wage gap; and join us for a special event on how subsidies impact school funding.

It’s #SunshineWeek, that special time of year we pay extra-close attention to the need for transparency at every level of government. Each day this week, we’ll be highlighting an area of our work on transparency, and what could be done better.

First up: film subsidies. 🎬

But first, help us celebrate Good Jobs First’s silver anniversary! We’re looking for a person(s) or firm to help us mark our work since 1998. Check out our RFP.

TV Shows Are Subsidized Too!

a glowing cartoon TV screen with "your favorite TV show got public subsidies" written on the screenYou may know about film subsidies, those huge chunks of public money that go to movie-makers even though study after study has shown they fail to come anywhere near paying for themselves. A taxpayer gives $1 and gets anywhere from a dime to 50 cents back.

Worse, many states fail to release even basic information on which production companies received the money or how many and what kinds of jobs they created in return.

But did you know that TV shows are also heavily subsidized? Yup. And they’re just as opaque.Right now you might be thinking, “Well, but TV shows stick around a lot longer and so are a better investment, right?”

Unfortunately, no.

Take Georgia, which is notoriously opaque on media subsidies, even though over two years the Peach State gave away $2.5 billion. A state audit estimates 88% of the state’s credits went to out-of-the-state companies.

And of the 232,000+ jobs California claimed to support with its subsidies, 87% were for extras and stand ins.

Senior Research Analyst Kasia Tarczynska writes about it here.

Childcare in CHIPS

"childcare" and "ABCs" are written on colorful blocks; each block is different color and a pair of child's shoes peeks out from the corner
Source: Getty Images Signature

Tomorrow, March 14, marks Equal Pay Day, that day women will finally catch up to what men earned in 2022. Women make 83 cents for every $1 men make, but for working mothers, the gap is far greater: They have to work until September 8 to make what fathers earned.

So we were glad to see the Biden Administration add childcare requirements to the CHIPS and Science Act, an $280 billion investment geared at strengthening the domestic semiconductor industry.

Here’s how it works: Companies seeking a CHIPS subsidy of $150 million or more must guarantee affordable childcare for workers who construct or take permanent jobs in a plant.  If state and local governments had similar requirement for recipients of large subsidy deals, it would go a long way toward increasing the number of women in the workplace – and their pay.

Read more here.

Friday Lunch & Learn: What Tax Incentives Do to Schools

The American Planning Association’s Public Schools + Communities Division and Good Jobs First are holding a special event on Friday, March 17 at 2 p.m. ET at to discuss the implications of tax incentives on school district funding. Register here.

Schools lose billions in funding due to corporate tax breaks each year. We’ll review examples of school districts that are using data available through GASB Statement No. 77 to push for greater transparency, accountability and reform.

Register here.

That’s it for now. Don’t forget to bookmark this link for a new piece each day this #SunshineWeek on how transparency matters.