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Let them eat canapes

July 22, 2010

Your Tax Update correspondent even now is winging his way back from his secret undisclosed location. Until he returns, we are rerunning some of his favorite items. This one first appeared August 24, 2009, less than a month before the Iowa Film Office Scandal broke.

20090824-1.jpgSo what if the state faces a billion-dollar budget shortfall. Never mind that the state still hasn't finished paying for the 2008 floods, or that schools are having to choose between math and music. Des Moines Register Columnist Rekha Basu has more urgent uses for your tax money: swell parties.

Ms. Basu realizes that Iowa's $77 million subsidy for filmmakers has critics:

But the tax credit has its detractors on the Iowa Legislature and among some who work with vulnerable populations. They fear it drains revenues from services.

But they'd feel differently if they were cool enough to make the A-list:

But some benefits can't just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The movies provide employment to local actors, construction crews, artists, caterers, drivers and a host of others. They expose non-Iowans to what the state has to offer. More intangible is the benefit of interactions in a state that can be cut off from the trends and centers of power. Not to mention the excitement factor. We've relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

Saturday, "The Experiment" had a wrap party downtown. Brody and Whitaker were there, mingling and posing for pictures. Frank Meeink was there. The Iowan who may have inspired the 1998 "American History X" has an acting role. Deb Cosgrove, the nurse, was there. She's been tending to the medical needs of the film's luminaries. Casey Gradischnig, local multi-media designer, was there. He's been working for Whitaker.

And if you don't get invited to A-list parties, maybe you can get a temporary job as a driver when your employer flees to South Dakota to get away from the nation's 7th-worst business tax environment.

Ms. Basu throws in a clincher argument:

One way to look at this: It's creating a niche for Iowa, just as companies do when they move call services to India. And for once, we're not on the losing end of the outsourcing.

Of course India doesn't have to pay half the salaries of call-center workers with tax money. But then India doesn't get the sweet movie-star parties.

Flickr image courtesy Geoff604's photostream.

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