Fabiola Santiago

Fabiola Santiago: Would you rather fund a flick or an AK-47?

In this July 26, 2002, file photo, Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media. The manufacturer of the weapon in the U.S. is moving its factory to Pompano Beach.
In this July 26, 2002, file photo, Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media. The manufacturer of the weapon in the U.S. is moving its factory to Pompano Beach. AP

In Rick Scott’s Florida, not every job-generating business is created equal.

If you’re an assault rifle manufacturer, welcome to the Sunshine State. Our tax cuts and our gun-friendly laws are tailor-made for you!

If you’re a filmmaker, the greeting goes like this: “You’re on your own, you fornicating liberal hippies, what do you want, a hand-out?”

Both the NRA and the entertainment industry have lobbies in the state, but there’s no comparison to the power one exerts and the other lacks, or who’s ahead in the race for tax-dollars — and legislation that promotes sales and more sales.

Hint No. 1: You don’t see the many credits of affiliation with the film industry in the biographies of state representatives and senators. But you’ll find plenty of “Member of the National Rifle Association” listings, even for city boys who hail from South Florida.

Consider these two scenarios playing out as we speak:

In the Keys and Homestead, residents and business owners are worried about not seeing another season of the popular drama series Bloodline, a Netflix original about a large family that runs a beachside inn and whose prodigal son comes home to unleash all sorts of ghosts. If tax incentives go away, the show may not be back for a third season of filming.

Scrapping tax credits for television and film productions in Florida is on the tea partiers’ hit list, and lawmakers are being pressured to kill tax incentives for the film industry by groups like Americans for Prosperity-Florida.

But no such thinking applies to guns.

Thanks to Florida’s gun-friendly legislators and the governor’s $1 billion promise of tax cuts for big business, Pompano Beach is welcoming the American AK-47 manufacturer Kalashnikov USA, which is moving its factory here from Tullytown, Pennsylvania, CNN Money reports.

Partisan loyalties rule the day — and now we can add to South Florida’s list of dubious honors the making of killing machines.

On the other hand, when production companies come to film in places like Islamorada, the Upper Keys and a Homestead studio, locals benefit from money spent daily in rentals and an endless list of supplies. Just as importantly, they hire locals for all sorts of jobs — and the result of what’s created is free publicity for the Keys as a destination. For the rest of us, the tax-incentive in this case translates into quality entertainment with no commercial interruption.

One could argue that Netflix should not expect any help in the form of tax incentives. Taxpayers already pay for the series with their subscription fees. But tax credits are being handed down anyway; the only thing up for grabs is for whom. It comes down to choice: Do you want the state’s tax credits to go to manufacturing AK-47s or to making art that feeds the spirit? In the most culturally rich countries of the world, the arts are subsidized by government, and therefore, the people. What U.S. taxpayers contribute to the arts via taxes is infinitesimal by comparison.

What is playing out in Scott’s Florida is an ideological battle that the Republicans are winning by using a tool as old as the USA: taxes.

Think of it this way: What would you rather see in front of you, a flick made in the Florida Keys or an AK-47 made in Pompano Beach?

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