New Jersey

New Jersey's 'Snooki Amendment' Brings New Attention to Film Tax Credits

Skeptics question the economic benefits of the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act.

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John Nacion/starmaxinc.com/Newscom

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Garden State Film and Digital Media Jobs Act, also known as the Snooki Amendment, into law on Tuesday. The law will provide tax credits to film and digital media content creators in an attempt to encourage more projects in the state.

"By signing this legislation, we are allowing these companies to take advantage of New Jersey's unique culture, location, and geography," Murphy said in a press release promising "good-paying union jobs and countless residual benefits to the economy" from "the many projects that will come out of our great state."

In its most recent estimate, the Office of Legislative Services predicted the tax credits will cost up to $425 million in state revenue. It listed the "indirect state revenue gain," the "indirect local revenue gain," and the "state opportunity cost" as "indeterminate." The credits would be capped at $75 million annually for films and $10 million annually for digital content.

The bill will replace a similar program that expired during the administration of Murphy's predecessor, Chris Christie. In 2011, Christie blocked a similar tax credit, nicknamed the "Snooki subsidy," that would have awarded a $420,000 tax break to cover production costs for the inaugural season of the hit MTV show The Jersey Shore. Christie, while saying he had "no interest in policing the content of such projects," nevertheless said taxpayers shouldn't be footing the bill for a show that "does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens."

Critics like state Sen. Joe Pennacchio (R-Montville) spoke out against this year's film credits for similar reasons. Murphy, who called the bill signed by Murphy the "Snooki Amendment," said there are "a whole host of needs from school aid to property tax relief that deserve $425 million before we consider giving it to Snooki," The Jersey Shore's leading personality.

Reason's A. Barton Hinkle has explained that film tax credits like New Jersey's have a history of overpromising and underdelivering:

According to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, Virginia's "film tax exemption has little effect on film location decisions, a negligible benefit to the Virginia economy, and provides a negligible return on the state's investment." The film tax credit provides a return of 20 cents on the dollar; direct grants return 30 cents on the dollar.

Hinkle cites a 2012 report from the Tax Foundation, which discovered that "aside from studies paid for by economic development authorities and the Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA], an industry trade association, almost every other study has found film tax credits generate less than 30 cents for every $1 of spending." The MPAA praised Murphy for signing the Snooki Amendment.

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  1. “good-paying union jobs and countless residual benefits to the economy”

    You have to pick one.

  2. I thought I knew what a Snooki was. Then I read this article. Then I googled Snooki.

    Now I have no idea what a Snooki is.

    1. She wants smoosh smoosh. That’s all you need to know. Now open wide in case your betters decide to start jamming it down sideways.

    2. Do you know what a Situation is?

  3. The law will provide tax credits to film and digital media content creators in an attempt to encourage more projects in the state.

    And whaddaya know, I got some digital media waving at you right here. Where’s my money?

    1. tax credits = government subsidy. So I’ve been told.

      1. I don’t know about NJ but my understanding is that the kind of tax credits that the film industry gets in most states are the kind where the beneficiary gets money back whether or not any tax is owed.

        Sort of like an earned income tax credit (EITC) for rich people.

        1. This is correct, all film tax credits refund far more than any taxes paid, because they’re computed as a percentage of the budget and do not take any tax liability into account.

          People see “30% tax credit” and assume it refunds 30% of the taxes, but no, it refunds 30% of the budget.

          It doesn’t even matter to the state paying the subsidy whether or not the film/tv show makes money, because those profits end up being taxed in other states (like CA and NY).

          1. Kinda fucked up, ain’t it? 🙂

  4. Christie, while saying he had “no interest in policing the content of such projects,” nevertheless said taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a show that “does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.

    As a South Jersey resident that doesn’t want to be confused with those godless northerners, I totally agree.

    1. As a South Jersey resident that doesn’t want to be confused with those godless northerners, I totally agree.

      OK, between Jersey Shore, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and any Kevin Smith movie, which ones reflect South Jersey and which ones reflect the North?

      Sifting through my familiarity with depictions of N. Jersey vs. S. Jersey, I’m having trouble coming up with any solid distinctions. Garden State… Empire Records… I’m just not seeing a distinction. Or does nobody make movies about S. Jersey?

      1. South Jersey is the one with cows. So the main difference between the two is whether or not you see your mom there.

        1. And North Jersey is the one with bears. So the main difference between the two is whether or not you see your dad there.

          1. My father was a dangle queen, actually.

          2. North Jersey also has Taylor Ham, which is better than the South Jersey pork roll.

      2. Any movie with Atlantic City in it, or the Jersey Devil. That’s about it.

        1. Dang! Shoulda refreshed first!

        2. Rounders?

      3. Atlantic City? Jaws? Friday the 13th?

        What’s an accurate depiction of S. Jersey and what distinguishes it from Other Jersey?

        1. Fallen was filmed in south jersey, but is set in Philly. Scenes from Eddie and the Cruisers were filmed about a mile from my home.

        2. I will throw this in here, though. John Gorka’s song I’m From New Jersey is valid north or south.

          And for those with TDS, Where the Bottles Break, which was written over 20 years ago.

        3. South Jersey? It’s like Dixie except with scrapple and Jim’s Lunch.

      4. I thought North Jersey was the Sopranos.

  5. “”Christie, while saying he had “no interest in policing the content of such projects,” nevertheless said taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a show that “does nothing more than perpetuate misconceptions about the state and its citizens.”””

    I have to applaud Christie on that one.

    I also would have accepted “” taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a show “”

  6. Wouldn’t… and I have famously low standards.

    1. More of a J-Wow guy, huh?

  7. I can’t wait for NJ to fall off into the ocean when CA does. What a waste of space. I should know, I live there. Working on my exit plan.

  8. Wood not.

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