Make no mistake: The laws recently passed in Alabama, Georgia and half a dozen other states to ban abortion are a coordinated attack on the constitutional right to abortion and a woman’s ability to make decisions about her own body.
But a proposal by a Los Angeles-area lawmaker to offer extra tax breaks to film and television productions that move from states with antiabortion laws to California is a bad idea. It smacks of bribing companies to boycott, and it opens the door for more tit-for-tat tax break wars among states.
The idea for a “Share Our Values” tax credit comes from Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-Arleta). It’s a direct response to states that have enacted so-called fetal “heartbeat” bills that prohibit abortion after six to eight weeks of pregnancy, which is about the time most women discover they are pregnant and when doctors can start to detect fetal cardiac activity. (An embryo doesn’t have a developed heart at that point.)
California should not get into the business of paying companies to take a stand.
Alabama went further and adopted an outright ban on abortion in every stage of pregnancy, with no exemptions for victims of rape or incest. Rivas’ tax credit would apply to companies in Alabama as well; in fact, any state that adopted or was even considering a bill to restrict abortion rights after six or fewer weeks of pregnancy would be targeted.
All but one of the states with draconian abortion laws also offer financial incentives for movie and television shoots. Georgia, in particular, landed so much production work with its generous incentives that it’s become known as the “Hollywood of the South.”
Some actors and smaller production companies have announced they’ll boycott these states to protest their regressive restrictions. And Gov. Gavin Newsom has sought to turn the situation to the state’s advantage by appealing to Hollywood’s famously liberal politics.
“For those of you that have left to do production in states like Georgia, consider the investment there and what it’s promoting, versus investing in your state and what we’re promoting,” Newsom said in a video with Rivas. “This is the moment, come back home.”
California already offers $330 million a year to movies and TV shows that film in the state. Assembly Bill 1442 would create an additional tax credit for productions that move to California from the states targeted by the bill, or for productions that can demonstrate that they chose to film in California rather than in a targeted state. The bill doesn’t yet say how much more money a production could get for moving to California.
There are good reasons to be wary of expanding the state’s tax credit program in this way. California has already been forced to enter the film-incentive arms race just to try to hold onto the middle-class jobs and revenue generated by one of the state’s signature industries.
What would happen if Georgia, Alabama and other states with lawmakers opposed to abortion rights retaliated and increased their tax credits to woo film productions to stay — or to leave California? The entertainment industry already plays states against one another to elicit the biggest tax breaks; AB 1442 would simply give the studios a bigger financial prize for winning that game. And why would California reward productions that chose to chase incentive dollars rather than those that stayed in the Golden State all along? It’s a race to the bottom, and the only folks who would benefit are the movie moguls who work the tax breaks to their advantage.
And California may not even need to dangle relocation incentives in front of Hollywood bigwigs. Disney’s chief executive Bob Iger said last week it would be “very difficult” to keep filming in Georgia if the abortion law takes effect because employees wouldn’t want to work in the state. (Lawsuits challenging the law are expected.) Netflix and WarnerMedia also said they would rethink working in the state.
It’s certainly commendable when companies choose to use their position and power to advocate for civil rights and equality. And there’s no question that these recently adopted antiabortion laws are part of a campaign to reverse the constitutional protections established by Roe vs. Wade and revoke a woman’s right to choose. But California should not get into the business of paying companies to take a stand.