Week in Review: Tax breaks, spying and Medicaid expansion


By Bre Payton | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau

Virginia legislators snuggled up to the film industry this week by approving millions in tax breaks, but police spying got the cold shoulder.

Legislators got cozy with the film industry by approving millions of dollars in tax breaks, but they gave police spying the cold shoulder by passing a measure requiring them to obtain a warrant before tracking cell phone location data.

The state Senate, meanwhile, considered a costly, subsidized alternative to the Medicaid expansion.

This is your week in review.

Hollywood’s big break: VA House votes to boost film tax credits by 400 percent

Virginia is all about business, and to many of the state’s lawmakers that includes big breaks to Hollywood — at taxpayers’ expense, critics argue.

While some states are rethinking and downsizing incentive programs for the film industry, members of Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to increase the state’s cap on refundable corporate income tax credits to the film industry from $5 million every two years to $25 million — all in the name of economic development.

Some experts and critics say subsidizing the film industry lets politicians pick winners and losers, distorting the free-market system. They argue such credits cause funding losses in such areas as education, forcing taxpayers to make up the revenue elsewhere.

Eyes off: VA House pass bill that limits police spying

The Virginia House of Delegates want police to get a warrant before they track location data from cell phones.

The bill, HB17, which passed the House of Delegates unanimously Tuesday, specifically targets IMSI catchers — devices that pick up signals from nearby cell phones by mimicking a cell phone tower, known as a Stingray or a Chum device.

Police in at least 33 states have used devices like the Chum, and at least 25 police departments own one, including police in Fairfax County, Montgomery County and the Metro Police in D.C.

Medicaid pushers try to split GOP with subsidies

A Senate plan to subsidize health-care coverage for lower-income Virginians could cost more than expanding Medicaid, a congressional study says.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that state premium assistance would run $9,000 per beneficiary per year. That compares to $6,000 for traditional Medicaid.

Arkansas instituted a subsidy program with federal funds, and lawmakers there are now running from its ballooning costs. A new report found that the program will hurt, not help, hospitals in the Razorback State.

Virginia state Sen. Mark Obenshain said the state should take heed.

Contact Bre Payton at bpayton@watchdog.org or follow her on Twitter @Bre payton.

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