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February 1, 2023

A Romantic Tragedy: The Iowa Film Tax Credit Scandal

Once upon a time a little farm state was feeling sad. The state wasn’t poor. It wasn’t lonesome – strange, handsome and glamorous men were always courting her – but something was missing. What could it be?

Then a man whispered in her ear: you need glamor! And it’s in your grasp!

The little state blushed. “How can I, a little farm state, be glamorous like Hollywood?”

The man said: “You can buy glamour!” And he burst into song:

You’ve got glamor
Right here in River City!
Movies start with cash;
If I can be so brash;
Give me some tax credits!

So the smitten little state gave the man transferable film tax credits. She was so excited about glamor, she gave the tax credits away freely, and the glamor came:

We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

But something was wrong. The little state sensed amid the cocktail party laughter that the glamorous were laughing at her, not with her. She noticed that the glamorous people were driving away with shiny new cars that she was paying for. And she noticed that the tax credits were getting rather expensive.

So she cut off her tax credits. This made the glamorous people mad, and some of them sued her. But she caught some of the hapless glamorous people and had them locked up. She made the man who whispered in her ear about film credits confess that he had done a bad thing. She got mad at the man who handed out the tax credits for her and tried to put him in jail.

So the little state is sadder, but perhaps wiser. Which has an attraction of its own:

I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in.
I hope, and I pray, for a Hester to win just one more “A”
The sadder-but-wiser girl’s the girl for me.
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.

The moral of our story? If you fund it, they will come. And loot your purse. And laugh at you.

Once upon a time a little farm state was feeling sad. The state wasn’t poor. It wasn’t lonesome – strange, handsome and glamorous men were always courting her – but something was missing. What could it be?

Then a man whispered in her ear: you need glamor! And it’s in your grasp!

The little state blushed. “How can I, a little farm state, be glamorous like Hollywood?”

The man said: “You can buy glamour!” And he burst into song:

You’ve got glamor
Right here in River City!
Movies start with cash;
If I can be so brash;
Give me some tax credits!

So the smitten little state gave the man transferable film tax credits. She was so excited about glamor, she gave the tax credits away freely, and the glamor came:

We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

But something was wrong. The little state sensed amid the cocktail party laughter that the glamorous were laughing at her, not with her. She noticed that the glamorous people were driving away with shiny new cars that she was paying for. And she noticed that the tax credits were getting rather expensive.

So she cut off her tax credits. This made the glamorous people mad, and some of them sued her. But she caught some of the hapless glamorous people and had them locked up. She made the man who whispered in her ear about film credits confess that he had done a bad thing. She got mad at the man who handed out the tax credits for her and tried to put him in jail.

So the little state is sadder, but perhaps wiser. Which has an attraction of its own:

I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in.
I hope, and I pray, for a Hester to win just one more “A”
The sadder-but-wiser girl’s the girl for me.
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.

The moral of our story? If you fund it, they will come. And loot your purse. And laugh at you.

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