While the eyes of the nation have been riveted on Wisconsin and the battle to save unions, next door in Michigan, another of the Right’s most hated entities is under attack by newly elected Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Ask yourself, after unions who do the Republicans hate most? Who hurts them during election season? Who gives large campaign donations disproportionately to Democrats? Who makes movies and TV shows that make Republicans look like selfish, mean spirited, egotists? Hollywood! Could it be coincidence that the fledgling, but quickly growing, Michigan entertainment industry is in the crosshairs of the new GOP governor?
Three years ago, when the auto industry reorganization left thousands of Michiganders out of their good paying jobs, then Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm led an effort to lure moviemakers to Michigan. It worked! To date, more than 135 projects have wrapped, including many A-list movies like Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.
A new $80 million movie facility, Raleigh Studios in Pontiac Michigan, a city hard hit by the auto layoffs, was set to open this spring. The Detroit Free Press puts the number of people working in the Michigan movie industry at 6750 full timers, and another 4000 working as part time extras. But all that may now be at an end, due to Governor’s Snyder’s proposal to raise taxes on the moviemakers. Yes, that’s correct, a Republican wants to raise taxes on business.
The response from the movie industry has been swift. Though Governor Snyder’s budget is just a proposal at this time, the new Avengers movie with Robert Downey Jr. has already pulled out of it’s commitment to film here. Others will surely follow as New York, and Vancouver craft financial packages to lure them away. The unemployment rolls will swell again. Thousands of good paying jobs will evaporate. Governor Snyder has not addressed this inevitability, saying only that all companies in Michigan should pay the same tax rate.
The Michigan film industry has been a net positive for Michigan. The tax revenues it has generated have more than paid for the tax incentives they were given to locate here. Is this a game of chicken? Does Governor Snyder think if he reneges on the promises of Governor Granholm the moviemakers will still choose to stay? Or is the goal to get them to leave so the state so that the GOP will have one less adversary to help Democratic candidates in future elections? One thing is certain, it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on.