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Florida Office of Film and Entertainment: The Laurel and Hardy of pork barrel projects?

Dan Krassner, Co-Founder and Executive Director Integrity Florida, and Ben Wilcox, Research Director Integrity Florida, have released their latest research report: Florida Film Incentives – “Action” or “Fade to Black”?

Krassner and Wilcox state, “Florida’s production industry is lobbying the state legislature, as of February 2014, for a new $1 billion package of subsidies to sustain movies, TV shows, video games and other entertainment industry productions through 2020. As this major investment of taxpayer dollars is considered, this study examines the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of Florida’s Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program. While this study does not take a position about whether or not lawmakers should maintain or eliminate the incentive program, is does offer ways to improve the program if it continues.”

Key Research Findings are:

1) Insufficient disclosure. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) does not disclose deals made through Florida’s Entertainment Industry Financial Incentive Program on its website. The Office of Film and Entertainment, located within DEO, does not always disclose online both the specific value of the tax credit awards along with the actual production company names of the recipients.

2) Questionable compliance with state statutes. The Office of Film and Entertainment may not be properly utilizing the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council in decisions about incentives and is possibly working with the Council’s Executive Committee out of the sunshine.

3) First come, first served incentive deals rather than a focus on return on investment. Rather than properly vetting all applicants and deciding on projects based on the best return for taxpayers, a first come, first served policy is used by the Office of Film and Entertainment.

4) Subjective use of family-friendly incentive bonus awards. The legislative definition of what qualifies a production for a family-friendly incentive bonus is written with subjective language and may not be applied in a consistent manner by the Office of Film and Entertainment.

5) Industry group seeks taxpayer funds for a public-private partnership based on the Enterprise Florida model. The nonprofit group Film Florida is floating a proposal to create a public-private partnership with the Office of Film and Entertainment based on the Enterprise Florida model that could receive taxpayer funding from the legislature.

Key Policy Recommendations include:

1) More online disclosure of film and entertainment incentive agreements, with production company names and details of tax credits approved and awarded, on the DEO website.

2) Ensure the Office of Film and Entertainment Advisory Council and its related committees take appropriate steps to comply with Florida’s open meeting laws.

3) Increase fiscal responsibility for incentive deals by assessing potential for return on investment for taxpayers across all industry sectors equally, instead of the current policy of first come, first served tax credit applications and industry-specific caps.

4) More objectivity and oversight of tax credit bonus approvals.

5) Avoid privatization as OPPAGA, the legislature’s internal watchdog, noted concerns about performance and fiscal controls the last time that model was used.

Click here to read the latest research report by the nonpartisan government watchdog group Integrity Florida.

ABOUT INTEGRITY FLORIDA

Integrity Florida is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research institute and government watchdog whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.  Our vision is government in Florida that is the most open, ethical, responsive and accountable in the world. Integrity Florida and its research have been cited by major news outlets across the U.S., including the New York Times,  Washington PostAssociated Press and the Center for Public Integrity.