Acton Institute Powerblog

New Mexico Wisely Breaks With Bad California Tax Policies

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The best show on TV over the past five years has, in my not-so-humble-opinion, been AMC’s Breaking Bad. This is one over-hyped show that lives up to all of it (and more).

While the on-air sage of Walter White concludes this summer, Breaking Bad‘s pop-culture legacy may take a back-seat to it’s legislative and fiscal ones.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed into law Thursday the state’s “Breaking Bad” bill, which will increase subsidies on film and TV productions shot in the state now famous for the AMC drama.

The law increases New Mexico’s rebate for series television production to 30 percent of a producer’s total qualified spend in the state. Feature films will get 30 percent back on resident labor if using a qualified production facility. They will also get 25 percent back on all other expenses. In addition, a roll-over of $10 million in unused credits per fiscal year will be allowed.

The news comes after Martinez, a Republican who previously has tried to rein in production subsidies, vetoed the bill March 15. The state previously offered a 25 percent tax refund on qualifying productions, with a cap of $50 million per year. Martinez put the cap in place in 2011, with members of the film and TV industry blaming it for a drop in New Mexico productions.

As a recent transplant to Los Angeles with many friends currently working at various levels of the entertainment industry, I’ve seen and heard about the effects of studios taking their film and television projects to other states (and countries) first-hand. For such a progressive, tax-and-spend, pro-big government cabal, Hollywood sure seems to know how to flip the “We’re now entrepreneurs looking for competitive prices” switch when it comes to the bottom line of block-buster vehicles such as Hunger Games, Anchorman 2, and Dark Knight Rises.

And this is where things get mighty frustrating for a free enterprise proponent such as myself: I have no problem with it and am compelled to truthfully commend any studio smart enough to break their bad ties with California’s fiscal black-hole. Why, specifically, is this so frustrating? Because, apart from a few blog-posts here and there and some strongly-worded Tweets, the much-needed impact of this lesson in ideological hypocrisy is lost on most American voters (of any age).

New Mexico is doing what any sane small business would do if a larger competitor willfully priced itself out of competition. Other states like Georgia and Louisiana, as well as countries such as Canada and Czechoslovakia, are following suit.

But are these examples – ones that seem painfully obvious and instructive to me – making any impact on the broader culture? Do any of our co-workers, relatives, or neighbors take note of such anecdotes? Or is the quality of the anecdotes not the problem, while the obstinacy of a media/academia hostile toward free market viewpoints is?

Will Rogers liked to say that “freedom isn’t free.” Well, neither are votes people cast for big-government liberals in progressive states like California. Policies and the ideas behind them have consequences.

How do we better help our fellow citizens connect these dots?

R.J. Moeller R.J. Moeller is a writer and podcast host for the American Enterprise Institute's "Values & Capitalism" project. He's also a regular contributor at and Originally from Chicago, he currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he serves as a media consultant to nationally syndicated columnist and talk show host, Dennis Prager.


  • BruceEdwardWalker

    R.J.: Love that you appreciate Breaking Bad as much as I do! It’s a terrific show that really depicts the moral slippery slope one descends after determining to do something bad — and the bad things your family and friends likewise adopt as a result. That said, I’m puzzled by your embracing of film tax credits, which, as you write, are hardly free market solutions. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank in Midland, Mich., has done a lot of work on film tax credits, and the Mac Center’s Jarrett Skorup ( concluded last month:

    1. Film tax credits do not create jobs
    2. No analysis has concluded FTCs worth the cost
    3. FTCs have led to massive investments in film studios that have not paid off
    4. Many states are shutting down their FTC programs due to waste and mismanagement
    5. Regardless of political beliefs, Big Hollywood teaming up with government should violate the conscience.The majority of film subsidies go to big companies, mostly based in California. In fact, the Michigan Film Office says on its website that large productions are more likely to be chosen. So the Michigan film subsidy program is effectively a direct subsidy from the middle class to the rich; and few outside of a free market think tank are taking the side of regular taxpayers against millionaire actors and actresses and billion-dollar studios.

    There’s much more on this at the Mac Center website, R.J. I would be happy to discuss this more with you, sir! In the meantime, show’s gonna be a lot different this summer without Jonathon Banks. I’m gonna miss Mike!

    • Great information here! Thanks for sharing it and I’ll definitely take a look through it. You make some excellent points and I’m glad you responded.