House of Cards to Maryland: Cough up the tax breaks, or we’re leaving

posted at 9:21 am on February 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Unlike my esteemed colleague Allahpundit, I have yet to watch one frame of House of Cards, the Netflix original-series sensation that has captivated the US with its depiction of a ruthless Washington DC. I’m in the minority, apparently. Beltway denizens love it for its over-the-top power grabs and, er, competence, while for the rest of America it serves as a validation of everything we hate about backroom dealings and the people who live for them. If it’s not real life, then it’s better than real life.

And … it just got more real. The producers have issued an ultimatum to the state of Maryland, demanding a bigger share of taxpayer subsidies — or they’ll call in the moving vans:

A few weeks before Season 2 of “House of Cards” debuted online, the show’s production company sent Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a letter with this warning: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state.”

similar letter went to the speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), whose wife, Cynthia, briefly appeared in an episode of the Netflix series about an unscrupulous politician — played by Kevin Spacey — who manipulates, threatens and kills to achieve revenge and power.

In recent years, Maryland has spent more than $40 million to reward movie and television production companies that choose to film in the state, and most of that largesse has gone to “House of Cards.”

“This just keeps getting bigger and bigger” Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), who until now has supported film tax credits, said at a hearing on the issue last Friday. “And my question is: When does it stop?”

The city of Cleveland feels your pain, I’m sure. The last time Maryland got involved in one of these taxpayer-shakedown rackets, they were the enablers — when the Cleveland Browns packed up their team and headed to Baltimore to become the Ravens. In this case, they’ve invested $40 million in a television production, and that’s before the second season even began airing. Did they at least negotiate ownership rights? Naaaaaah.

Supposedly, this created 6,000 jobs and inflated the economy of Maryland by $250 million, according to economic data supplied by the state’s economic development office to the Post’s Jenna Johnson. I find those numbers incredible … in the most literal sense of the word. One season of a televsion show aired exclusively by Netflix created a quarter of a billion dollars in economic activity in a single year? What were the 6,000 jobs created by a television series in one season? The budget for the series is $3.8 million per episode, which includes salaries that get spent elsewhere than in Maryland. The first season ran 13 episodes, which puts the total production investment for Season 1 at $49.4 million. If even half of that got spent in Maryland, I’d be surprised, thanks to the star salaries involved — but it if did, Maryland is claiming a 10:1 multiplier factor. That’s utter nonsense.

I get the idea that introducing new production into an economy creates secondary and tertiary jobs and trade, but this claim is so ridiculous that practically qualifies for satire on House of Cards itself. As for Mr. Luedtke’s question — “When does it stop?” — the answer is that it never should have started in the first place.


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Don’t let the door hit you in the butt!

NavyMustang on February 21, 2014 at 9:24 AM

In recent years, Maryland has spent more than $40 million to reward movie and television production companies that choose to film in the state, and most of that largesse has gone to “House of Cards.”

Huh, for $40 million MD coulda gotten something permanent, like a new stadium for jousting – the state sport.

Akzed on February 21, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Georgia is were you want to be! Marylands film industry sucks!

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Stupid MD government – way too dense and thick-headed to get it.

22044 on February 21, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Hey! Where did my h go?!?!

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

If it screws omalley, I’m for it.

wolly4321 on February 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

HA! Come to NC! We have a movie studio and everything!

djl130 on February 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Also – Ed – you need to watch it – really.

djl130 on February 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

The funniest thing about House of Cards is how terrified they are of “The Republicans”.

Mord on February 21, 2014 at 9:37 AM

djl130 on February 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

You guys killed off many of the tax incentives. Georgia!!!

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 9:38 AM

That’s what Democrats do in Government. They redistribute tax dollars to Hollywood liberals. Just like our Socialist leader in Washington.

regmgr on February 21, 2014 at 9:42 AM

HA! Come to NC! We have a movie studio and everything!

djl130 on February 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

You guys killed off many of the tax incentives. Georgia!!!

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 9:38 AM

Just recycle the Homeland set.

bettycooper on February 21, 2014 at 9:47 AM

Had this discussion with Dave Rywall about American film companies taking shoots to Canada to avoid Union costs in the US. He rightly points out the film industry workers in Canada are for the most part unionized. What he doesn’t mention is the US film companies are reimbursed by the Canadian government to offset the fees American production companies pay to union workers.

Thanks Canada! Your tax dollars at work! I bet you don’t get a discount on your HBO or Showtime bill either.

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 9:52 AM

HA! Come to NC! We have a movie studio and everything!

djl130 on February 21, 2014 at 9:33 AM

Wilmington, baby!

And Bmore, the incentives are still back! Plus. Georgia is too … too … something something

http://www.ncfilm.com/glance.html

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Extortion by a movie production? Say it isn’t so. Usually it’s a civil rights organization doing the shake down. I’d tell them to get out of Dodge if I were Maryland. That being said, I hate to see Maryland get any tax dollars to fund their liberal policies.

iamsaved on February 21, 2014 at 9:57 AM

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 9:52 AM

My HBO and Showtime bills are both $ 0.00. I’d never put a cent in the pockets of the liberal trash running them, and in the unlikely case that I’d ever want to see any of their garbage, there are other … acquisition methods.

Darth Executor on February 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

And Bmore, the incentives are still back! Plus. Georgia is too … too … something something

http://www.ncfilm.com/glance.html

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 9:54 AM

Good toe hear NC straightened back up. I think the word you are looking for to describe Ga is successful. ; )

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Aren’t the Clintons from Arkansas?

faraway on February 21, 2014 at 10:04 AM

I don’t understand. I thought the best way to boost business was to tax the living daylights out of everybody and then tax them again for good measure. Why are they giving these guys tax breaks? Tax Keving Spacey at 90% for all the money he is making. I am sure he is good for it.

JAGonzo on February 21, 2014 at 10:05 AM

you mean lower corporate taxes are good ??
but all libs say its evil….me confoosed…

dmacleo on February 21, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Darth Executor on February 21, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Oh, same here. Their series are liberal object lessons that we would be paying for. Moving out to the farm here we had a chance to renegotiate our Dish into a new subscribers contract and get all that free for 3 months or so I think. I asked to not get it at all. The preview was part of the deal and they said you just block the channels if you don’t want to watch them. With DVD access to movies as quickly as they post on HBO or Showtime, all you’re really paying for in my estimation is their liberal series programming. No thanks.

Good toe hear NC straightened back up. I think the word you are looking for to describe Ga is successful. ; )

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 10:02 AM

I love Gorgia. :-)

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

lI just can’t speel it.

Georgia.

hawkdriver on February 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM

As far as HBO etc. Black Sails is freaking awesome. I also like Boardwalk Empire, Banshee, Strike Back and True Blood. I have discovered this NetFlix. I am investigating other programs similar to it.

JAGonzo on February 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM

toe=to, must be contagious hawk. ; )

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Remember the old days when they used to call it “tax cuts for the rich”?

redzap on February 21, 2014 at 10:14 AM

Spoiler: They move it to Texas, and Frank converts to the Tea Party

faraway on February 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM

Wha? You mean cutting taxes can stimulate job growth – and high taxes are a burden to businesses? Sheesh, and here I thought those Repubs were just crazy.

Hill60 on February 21, 2014 at 10:16 AM

How about an AIR tax to offset. Yeah that’s it an AIR tax. We can calculate how much air the average person breathes and multiply time and $1.05 by the PIAF volume. Perfect. Of course it will work they let us tax rain and didn’t even whimper.

faol on February 21, 2014 at 10:17 AM

If Martin O’Malley won’t cut a sweetheart deal with Netflix and the producers, I’m sure Terry McAuliffe across the river in Virginia will.

jon1979 on February 21, 2014 at 10:18 AM

Stupid MD government – way too dense and thick-headed to get it.

22044 on February 21, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Hard call on which is the stupidest thing Md has taxed. Rainwater is certainly a contender. ; )

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 10:21 AM

But Hollyweird “Liberals” and “pay your fair share” and obama and “smart power” and gay marriage and, and… Look ! Over there! A squirrel!

KMC1 on February 21, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Liberal Dems who were taught by liberal teachers in school systems with no teacher standards and no education standards obviously never learned basic arithmetic.

These Dems were USED. The calculations were failures from the beginning.

Classic leftist behavior – “You don’t give me what I want, I’ll take my toys and go home.”

MN J on February 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM

When does it stop?”

Michael Corleone: Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in.

You can never get out.

They’re gangsters.

Also, the jobs number is ridiculous. Shows leave Hollywood because the permits, etc., are cheaper and the crew and background costs are lower. I think the only people making money are the lawmakers who voted for this boondoggle. Would check their contributors if I had the time.

And why should this one industry alone get massive tax relief from states and the feds?

Oh, I already answered that. They’re gangsters.

PattyJ on February 21, 2014 at 10:48 AM

Take it to Toronto you douche bags.

portlandon on February 21, 2014 at 11:07 AM

I have yet to watch one frame of House of Cards, the Netflix original-series sensation that has captivated the US with its depiction of a ruthless Washington DC.

Okay I’ll be pedantic and point out the oxymoron considering it’s based on a British mini series….

You should watch the original series starring Ian Richardson .

EnglishRogue on February 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM

If it screws omalley, I’m for it.

wolly4321 on February 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Amen. No one deserves a shakedown more than MD’s best-known shakedown artist.

SomeCallMeJohn on February 21, 2014 at 11:27 AM

Bye!

LarryK on February 21, 2014 at 11:33 AM

Quarter of a billion in revenues?

Well, they added 150 union jobs and contributed $100 million to the DNC, so: the numbers are more believable, when you include that.

orangemtl on February 21, 2014 at 12:04 PM

You should watch the original series starring Ian Richardson .

EnglishRogue on February 21, 2014 at 11:19 AM

The original is excellent. I have no reason to think Netflix improved on it.

dogsoldier on February 21, 2014 at 12:10 PM

The Hollywood liberal establishment will get their tax breaks while the taxpayers get soaked (with the new rain tax).

djaymick on February 21, 2014 at 12:16 PM

so they know, and even provide mind you, tax breaks to lure business

yet they still increase spending based on bogus tax receipt growth

and wonder why things aren’t working out

Maf is so hard for liberals.

DanMan on February 21, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Hollywood would rather stay home, but it will go where it has to go to create product for a profit– like every other capitalist enterprise that is fleeing California.

The scary part about it is that, unlike previous decades, it’s not just productions that are moving out, but production personnel. When all that’s left in L.A. are the lowest-budget, lowest denominator tv reality shows, might as well live someplace nice.

Even Hollywood’s high-fliers have had their wings clipped.

de rigueur on February 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Guess where else ‘House of Cards’ is becoming popular

DarkCurrent on February 21, 2014 at 2:12 PM

Stupid MD government – way too dense and thick-headed to get it.

22044 on February 21, 2014 at 9:27 AM

.
Hard call on which is the stupidest thing Md has taxed. Rainwater is certainly a contender. ; )

Bmore on February 21, 2014 at 10:21 AM

.
Maryland and Virginia are suburbs of D.C.

listens2glenn on February 21, 2014 at 6:28 PM

Tax breaks especially on commercial real estate are pretty reasonable.

But tax credits need to be extremely sparing. I don’t know why they’re offering credits that freely.

I’d sooner offer breaks or aid with regulatory red tape.

Really, some places should just do that for everyone. But if there is a specific industry you want to attract I can see the value in making a special effort for them.

Karmashock on February 22, 2014 at 12:06 AM

Isn’t extortion great?

Obamatrix on February 22, 2014 at 10:03 PM

If it makes so much money, why don’t they just set their tax rate at 0%?

Ronnie on February 25, 2014 at 4:33 PM