New Jersey has been gaining a worldwide reputation thanks to the plethora of newer television programs featuring the state. It may have started with The Sopranos, but Jersey Shore, Jerseylicious, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and Jersey Couture have continued. The state government has been providing a tax credit encouraging filmmakers to bring their production to the Garden State. The incentive hasn’t resulted in New Jersey becoming “Hollywood East” as was either hoped or feared, depending on your point of view, when the state created the tax credit.
New Jersey is not alone in this approach. New York City has offered a similar tax credit to bring film production to the east, benefiting many films and television series, and along with film production comes many jobs.
The tax credit in this state doesn’t just apply to entertainment about New Jersey. Parts of the film Transformers 2 was filmed here, as well. I haven’t seen the movie, but as far as I know about the film, there’s nothing included that could tarnish the reputation of the state’s citizens, unlike some of the other projects filmed here. Most notably, Governor Chris Christie singled out Jersey Shore. In his role as governor, Christie has revoked the $420,000 tax credit for production of the series filmed for MTV. As a New Jersey resident, I’m acutely aware that the personalities of the characters on Jersey Shore don’t reflect the reality of the greater community within the state.
I don’t necessarily think the tax credit should be repealed based on a show’s content, however. The goal of the tax credit is not to encourage marketing in favor of the state’s reputation (propaganda) or tourism, but to bring an industry and that industry’s jobs to the state, many of which might not have been here otherwise.
It’s valid to argue that the tax credit shouldn’t exist in the first place. Producers would naturally gravitate towards locations where it is more economical to produce. A tax credit gets in the way of market forces. I’m fine with tax credits for certain industries if it benefits the state economically, and it’s easy to see that the tax credit program for filmmakers does that. As a New Jersey citizen, I’d prefer hat the tax credit be used to produce quality entertainment, but that’s a judgment call. It’s an opinion, and one that the government shouldn’t be using for policy decisions.
The governor most likely wants to kill the tax credit altogether, and is just using Jersey Shore as an example of entertainment that “uses” the credit to enhance the negative reputation of its citizens. He understands that appealing to the state’s reputation could be an easier fight than killing a job-producing tax credit on its merits as government intrusion on a free market. I’m no fan of Jersey Shore, but either kill the tax credit entirely or don’t arbitrarily decide who should receive the benefit. Move the funds to the marketing and tourism budget if the government decides funds should be dedicated only to entertainment that sheds a positive light on the state.
Updated October 1, 2011 and originally published September 29, 2011.