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Oscar Winners, Welfare Recipients

Did you watch the Oscars Sunday night? Wonder how Hollywood stars can afford to live as they do, with limousines and designer dresses?

Well, you’re paying for it—if you live in one of the more than 40 states that give tax handouts to the movie industry.

Louisiana, for example, gave an $8.4 million subsidy to a big Hollywood studio so that Django Unchained would be filmed in-state. Ditto for Ben Affleck and George Clooney’s Argo, which got over $6 million in tax credits from California. Virginia paid $3.5 million for Lincoln. Meanwhile, states are going bankrupt and running out of money for basic services like education.

It’s not just Oscar winners who are cashing in on taxpayer money. Walt Disney Pictures took over $100 million in federal tax credits in 2010, and then over $180 million in 2011. Horror film kingpin M. Night Shyamalan has raked in $48 million in subsidies from Pennsylvania. Tennessee throws tax money at any Hollywood studio willing to produce a country-themed film.

You’d think that states and the movie industry would be ashamed by these blatant special favors and backroom deals, but they’re celebrating it. Cronyism makes for great fun—unless you’re the one paying the bills.

Is this going on in your state? Check out the MPAA.org, the website for the movie industry’s lobbying arm. Click here to see a state-by-state summary of who offers big tax breaks for Hollywood, with links to the websites of each state’s “film incentives” program.

Which states are spending the most money on the movies? We want to know. Check out your state’s data and tell us what you find out. Email us your story and we’ll feature it on Watchdog Wire.

When big government and Big Hollywood get together, there aren’t many people willing to call them out. That’s why we need watchdogs like you to keep government and businesses honest.

Kevin Palmer

Staff writer at Franklin Center. Contact me at kevin@watchdogwire.com

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