By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — Consider the most recent news of wasted tax dollars a potential storyline that would rival the most devious of schemes portrayed each week on ABC’s Nashville.
Perhaps Larry the Cable Guy could make it the constant butt of jokes on his next television special — how Tennessee officials spent almost $20 million of taxpayer money and got very little in return, apparently.
The talented people who run Hollywood are mooching off Tennessee taxpayers, according to a report that the state Comptroller’s Office released this week.
The report faults two state agencies, the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Department of Revenue, for poor oversight of the state’s film incentive program, designed to lure television and film production crews to the state. State officials hand out the incentives in the form of grants and refundable tax credits to lure producers and crews to the state.
Both departments approved $9.1 million in grants and credits from 2006-2012, for a total of $18.1 million. Shows including Nashville, Larry the Cable Guy’s Hulapalooza and Hannah Montana The Movie received Tennessee taxpayers’ money.
State officials hoped Tennessee residents would see new jobs and economic benefit from the incentive program, but it seems state officials are writing out too many checks to California addresses instead of Tennessee locations.
In a review of almost 30 Tennessee film and television productions since 2006, including other titles such as Pure Country 2, Appalachian Justice and Losers Take All, auditors discovered:
- Production companies benefited from taxpayer incentives even though they did not have physical facilities in Tennessee, though they promised to do so.
- One production company that benefited from incentives had office space in Tennessee that it used only to collect and forward mail.
- Officials at another production company left Tennessee permanently after receiving their taxpayer-funded incentive.
- A review of the Secretary of State’s Business Listings reveals that eight of the 15 approved production companies with headquarters in Tennessee had been dissolved since completing their film projects. Three of them have principal addresses in California.
State officials allowed five residential homes and one apartment to qualify as production company headquarters, according to the report.
“Two of these production companies promised that they would be moving their company to Tennessee but they did not have a permanent location at the time,” according to the report. “One of the residential homes qualified is not even owned by the producer according to property assessment records.”
The executive director of the Screen Actors’ Guild- American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Randall Himes, was unavailable for comment. Leslie Krensky, the Nashville executive director of the SAG, declined to comment when reached at her Miami office. Both unions represent people working on the various productions.
Contact Christopher Butler at [email protected].