By one generally accepted estimate, Idaho state legislators have created more than $1 billion—that's $1 billion—in tax breaks of various types over the years, mostly for the benefit of businesses.
Now, rearing its ugly head again in the 2008 legislative session is the previously defeated proposal to create tax "rebates" for movie production companies filming in the state and that hire at least 20 percent of their crews locally. The rebates would kick back 20 percent of any taxes filmmakers paid on local purchases, with rebates coming from a special state fund created from other tax revenues.
If this bizarre formula—using tax revenues from other groups to create a fund to return taxes to another group—seems like Alice in Wonderland thinking, you're right.
How could lawmakers explain to low-income families who pay a state tax on food that Idaho would give a tax break to out-of-state moviemakers?
How could legislators explain a rebate for moviemakers to employees of the state's largest private employer, Micron, which is in such desperate financial straits that more than 1,100 workers have been laid off since June and state budget makers have even suggested anticipating Micron leaving the state if its fortunes don't improve?
Filmmakers don't create new long-term, high-salary jobs. They simply use the state as a picturesque stage prop and they're gone in a few weeks.
Idaho's treasury can't afford another gimmick to reduce revenues through an unfair tax break for business.
Tax breaks already on the books are forcing taxpayers to take up the slack as it is.