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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Indiscriminate Axe

Here’s a perfect example of government idiocy. Faced with a budget crunch, the state of Hawai‘i has proposed virtually eliminating two tiny, relatively inexpensive offices that actually make money for the state—the Hawai‘i state film commission and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts. The film office is slated to lose four of its five staff (hat tip to the Star-Bulletin,  more here). SFCA may lose 10 positions, including the executive director job, leaving one person to run the mandated Art in Public Places program, plus a handful of administrators (more on that here).

These cuts are out of proportion to what other agencies have to contend with. They ignore the opportunity cost of the revenue we won’t get from the world of film, TV and arts grants when these offices are crippled. And the cuts typify an anti-customer mindset on the part of government. Decimating the film office is kind of like shrinking the DMV down to one person, but still requiring all drivers to renew their licenses—it ain’t gonna work. The state of Hawai‘i offers tax credits to lure film and TV productions here, then issues permits to control those productions once they’re underway. Now it’s trying to gut the office that coordinates both credits and permits. In that case, why not just scrap the credits and the permits, too?

This reminds me of the way the state runs its Historic Preservation Division, which we covered in “Bones of Contention.” State and federal law requires that developers run their plans past this office to make sure no historic sites will be lost. But the state under-funds and under-staffs that office so severely that these reviews can take years, or end up getting rushed, so that neither historic sites nor developers get what they are promised.

One can make a case that government shouldn’t be in the film or art business in the first place, but since the state has taken on these missions, just as it has taken on historic preservation, education and health care, is it too much to ask that it actually do the job?

Posted on Friday, August 28, 2009 in Permalink

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