Our homegrown nonprofit arts groups simply cannot compete in glamour with the decidedly for-profit Netflix and HBO projects shot in the state, yet lawmakers recently considered dipping into the tiny, $2.5 million Special Fund for the Preservation of Cultural Arts in order to lure Netflix into staying in Maryland.
According to news reports, lawmakers claimed it was an "economic decision." But the math is a bit fuzzy: Our struggling theaters, galleries, museums and performance companies (mostly semi-professional at best) employ over 12,000 Marylanders annually and give back over $1 billion to the state.
Meanwhile, Netflix employed 6,000 people over two years and contributed far less.
It can't just be the money. Yes, the smaller tax credit Gov. Martin O'Malley offered the industry giant was much less than it had enjoyed in the past — $4 million vs. $25 million. But according to the New York Times, Netflix profits and subscriptions "soared" in 2013, with 44 million paid subscriptions and revenues of $1.9 billion in the fourth quarter alone.
Meanwhile, arts groups in Maryland are poor as church mice. So why couldn't lawmakers have found some other economic stimulus fund from which to "dip"?
For once, wouldn't it have been gracious of well-heeled Netflix to have offered to cover its entire tax burden for using our streets, buildings and infrastructure to make such eye-popping profits?
Mickey Mullany, Owings Mills
The writer is former managing director of the Baltimore Theatre Alliance.
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