Pennacchio to NJ Taxpayers: ‘The Joker is On You’

Sen. Joe Pennacchio said New Jersey taxpayers deserve better than having $2 million of hard-earned money to help pay for the filming of a $1 billion blockbuster movie

MORRIS COUNTY — Sunday night’s Oscar Award telecast should have left a bitter taste in the mouths of New Jersey taxpayers, Senator Joe Pennacchio said.

“On a night when the entertainment industry elite lectured Americans on priorities, politics and principals, New Jersey didn’t even get a ‘thank you’ for the $2 million from hard-working taxpayers in our state that helped finance the filming of ‘Joker,’” said Pennacchio (R-26). “They didn’t need our money to make the movie, but they gladly accepted it.”

The money flowed through the state’s contentious film tax credit program, recently extended by Governor Murphy for five more years, through 2028. More than $57 million in tax breaks were awarded last year.

“The Governor doubled New Jersey’s commitment to the program to $900 million before the state auditor’s report on its benefits, if any, for our taxpayers,” Pennacchio said. “Sadly, we already know how that movie is going to end. New Jerseyans will get nothing.”

Pennacchio has been a steadfast opponent of the using taxpayer money to lure movie and entertainment production to the state.

“Our residents are saddled by the most onerous taxes in the nation,” said Pennacchio. “Taxpayers can’t catch a break from Trenton, but Murphy is tossing money by the millions to studios grossing billions of dollars, and actors making $20 million per film. This is a Hollywood-style scandal playing out on the streets of the Garden State.”

recent audit of Georgia’s largest-in-the-nation film tax credit program determined revenue generated by the program was not sufficient to offset the cost of the credits. A state agency was over-stating the economic activity attributed to the 15-year-old motion picture credit.

Another study, in of all places Southern California, often cited by Pennacchio and completed by USC in 2019 found “uninspiring employment effects” of film tax credits in 30 states. A headline in the Sacramento Bee declared: “Taxpayer’s don’t get much when states like California hand tax breaks to Hollywood, study says.”

“We have more than enough data to prove these give-aways don’t accomplish anything but fatten the wallets of the industry’s big players,” Pennacchio said. “While families in our state struggle to pay the highest property taxes in the U.S., we’re handing over some of their tax money to billionaire movie mogul Steven Spielberg to remake ‘West Side Story.’ It defies logic.”

“Joker,” featuring some scenes filmed on Newark’s Market Street, is a box office blockbuster raking in more than $1 billion worldwide.

“Not a bad return on a $70 million investment, but not a dime of that is coming back to the over-taxed families in New Jersey,” said Pennacchio.