Our Views: Stephen Moret’s take on film industry tax credits _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret speaks at a Lafayette Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Cajundome Convention Center Wednesday in Lafayette.

Stephen Moret is leaving his job as Louisiana’s chief economic development officer to lead the LSU Foundation, so presumably he can be more candid in his views on state tax policy, even when it doesn’t square with the priorities of his current boss, Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Maybe that’s why Moret was fairly direct this month in telling state lawmakers that Louisiana’s generous tax credits for the film industry could use some reforms.

Moret, outgoing secretary of the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, was at a hearing on LED’s budget when the subject turned to the film credits program, which now costs the state much more than it generates in economic activity. It’s a ludicrous extravagance at a time that state government is facing a $1.6 billion deficit. But Jindal’s proposed budget doesn’t recommend any changes to the film credits, which have become a poster child for corporate welfare.

The tax credits paid out about $240 million last year and about $150 million the year before that, Moret said. “I am not suggesting you eliminate the (film tax credit) program, but I do think we are in a situation today, with the size of this program relative to the challenges you are facing with the state budget, that it is now in direct competition with some other state priorities.”

A Jindal administration spokesperson said that the administration is “open to working with legislators on tax credits — any of them — if there’s an appetite for that.”

In other words, if the people the governor is supposed to lead will lead first, then the governor might follow.

With political courage like that, it’s no wonder the state budget is in such a mess.