Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't leave tax incentives on the cutting room floor

No, no, and a thousand times no. Gov. Doyle has proposed eliminating the tax incentives for film productions in the state and offering a $500,000 grant in their stead.

And just when I was actually feeling mildly impressed by his new budget proposal, too. But hey, no one's perfect: that's why us uppity citizens are here to call Doyle and other elected officials out when they start spoutin' nonsense.

At first blush, it may seem like a good idea to limit tax breaks in the midst of a recession, but the film industry has already proved itself as something that creates jobs and brings millions of dollars in revenue to the state. It would be downright foolhardy to get rid of that now, just 13 months after first making the incentives available and after years of fighting to get them in place at all.

The upfront investment in film productions by the state leads to longer term benefits. It offers local industry professionals an opportunity to work near home instead of having to go to California. It creates jobs. And it brings cash to everything from hotels and restaurants to locations picked for filming and businesses that rent cars, do catering, etc.

So no, Gov. Doyle, now is not the time to cut out those tax incentives. It's tempting to start slashing and burning in the face of economic crisis, but that sort of tactic can often lead to the accidental chopping down of perfectly fruitful trees. Put down your axe.

(photo by gnecoffee on Flickr)


M Big Mistake said...

Though there are many good things in it...I too have a single issue (so far) to pick a bone with in the state budget.

(under the Justice initiatives):

"Decriminalize motor vehicle operation after suspension or revocation, unless the underlying reason for the revocation was related to alcohol or other drugs, to reduce the number of cases in which a public defender must be appointed, and to facilitate restoration of driving privileges when appropriate."

So apparently it is okay to drive like an idiot unless you're drunk.

To me this does not indicate a committment to protecting vunerable road users by our Governor.

Emily said...

Interesting. I'd be interested to get details on how this would be handled if implemented. As in, does this apply if the suspension or revocation resulted from vehicular manslaughter or injury, etc.

Because if so, then yes absolutely it's ridiculous, and would show a decided lack of concern for the protection of "vulnerable road users," as you say.

Ismael Tapia II said...

I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with Mr. Big Mistake.

I am a criminal-defense attorney and I handled operating after suspension (OAS) and operating after revocation (OAR) cases all the time. Frankly, having these offenses count as criminal offenses is, well, dumb, although I do think that the reason for the revocation or suspension is important.

In your typical OAR or OAS, someone gets pulled over for having a defective tail light, or a license-plate lamp that's not working, or for crossing the fog line (the white line on the right-hand side of the road) or some other minor, technical violation. Because OARs after the first count as criminal violations, the person has the right to an attorney. When the defendant is indigent, the state foots the bill for the attorney.

In Dane County, the penalty for this thing ends up being a fine, usually in the range of $350. In many other counties, however, the defendants in these cases end up spending days in jail--guidelines range from a minimum of five days for the second offense to significantly more than that. The most I've seen is nine months, I believe.

So let's be clear on what's happening here: someone's out there driving without a valid license, which I'll admit is less than ideal behavior. Then this person is charged with a crime, taking up some district attorney's time. If they qualify, they are represented by a public defender. Although these are usually simple cases, the lawyer can't "phone it in," and spends several hours reviewing all of the materials that go into these sorts of cases--police reports, driving records, court documents. And remember that all of these have to be copied and that someone--you, the taxpayer, is footing the bill. Then the case ends up back in court and the defendant is sentenced, taking up the time of the judge and various other people. If the person pays a fine, it doesn't come close to covering the total cost of the prosecution. If the person goes to jail, then that's an even bigger cost you're covering.

And what do you get in return? Nothing, really. You don't get increased safety because, in the vast majority of these cases, there was no bad or dangerous driving--remember that these are people who have taken a driving test and passed. And you don't get increased compliance because, well, people need to drive, and they're usually going to regardless of the status of their licenses.

So is it worth spending literally hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars every year to prosecute and incarcerate people who have committed only minor, technical, administrative offenses? I guess that's up to you to answer, but I definitely don't think it is.

M Big Mistake said...

There are also plenty of cases of people who drive recklessly and hurt or kill people and do not ever spend a day in jail.

If there truly are all of these "minor" cases, those should certainly be dealt with differently...but as far as I can tell...if you kill someone with your car and you aren't get off scott free because people feel sorry for you.

Careless driving is negligent and should be punished. Especially when you've done it so many times that your license has been taken away. You can say "oh that's different"...but from what I've is rarely treated differently.

Ismael Tapia II said...

I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, or to be disrespectful to you, Mr. Big Mistake, or to our hostess. Still, I think a response is warranted.

I understand that you think that people who drive after having their licenses suspended or revoked and then hurt people should be punished. And I agree. And the legislature does, too. Take a look at sections 343.44(2)(e)-(h) of the Wisconsin Statutes. These provide increasing penalties for damage caused to property or injuries caused to people while driving after revocation or suspension. The severity of the sanction is proportional to the severity of the offense. I'm not advocating changing these provisions, and I don't think Governor Doyle was, either.

In addition to that, section 940.10 provides that "Whoever causes the death of another human being by the negligent
operation or handling of a vehicle is guilty of a Class G felony." A class G felony, by the way, comes with a maximum penalty of ten years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine. I'm sure that there's a section that applies to causing injury to another person because of negligent driving, but I'm too lazy to go find that section right now.

The bottom line is this, though. If you cause serious injury or death through driving like an idiot, you're going to be facing some extremely serious consequences, even if you had a perfectly valid license at the time. If you cause injury or death after your license is revoked, then you're going to be facing serious consequences whether you were driving stupidly or not.

And again, I don't think the Governor was saying that any of these provisions should be changed. I certainly wasn't, and I'm sorry if I was unclear on that point.

Emily said...

Ismael - Oh don't worry about me, I'm just glad to see people having a good debate about the issue, and to be learning something along the way.

The Lost Albatross