With the imploded economy putting a strain on local governments across the nation, budget cuts are inevitable. But if shuttering our jails and elementary schools doesn’t get us out of this mess, could states’ incentives for movie production be in jeopardy? Maybe! The New York Times reports that taxpayers in Louisiana are outraged over a $27 million bill they’re footing for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the upcoming David Fincher–Brad Pitt film made possible by a completely insane incentive allowing Paramount to recoup even parts of the movie’s $167 million budget that weren’t spent in the state. And in Michigan, where nobody’s had a job since 1986, lawmakers in both parties are trying to put a cap on movie-related spending after they made an offer to pay 40 percent of film costs incurred there and movie studios astonishingly took them up on it.
Proponents of the incentives argue that they create jobs and stimulate local economies. Critics point out that this is completely stupid: “These are not long-term jobs,” says Michigan Republican Nancy Cassis. “If just one state offers more, they’ll be out of here before you can say ‘lickety-split.’” She should probably just be happy that they’re shooting potentially good movies (like Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino and Michael Cera’s Youth in Revolt) in her state, instead of obvious stinkers like the ones they’re making in Rhode Island — taxpayers there help fund Hard Luck, a straight-to-DVD film starring Cybill Shephard and Wesley Snipes (ironic, given Snipes’s noted appreciation for taxes).