'Jersey Shore' gets tax rebate from state of New Jersey

Jersey Shore cast

Call it Snooki Capitalism.

New Jersey legislators are pitching a fit after the state’s Economic Development Authority approved a $420,000 tax rebate this week for the first season of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”

“Let us just hope against hope that New Jersey taxpayers don’t end up paying for Snooki’s bail the next time she is arrested,” state Sen. Paul Sarlo told the New Jersey Star-Ledger, referring to one of the show’s stars. “What a terrible, terrible and misguided waste."

“Jersey Shore” — either an engrossing reality show or the end of Western civilization as we know it, depending on whom you ask — received the rebate retroactively for 2009 as part of a legislative program intended to drive business to the state by exempting a portion of filming expenses. (MTV did not immediately return a request for comment.)

The show qualified for the program not because of its content, but by meeting a program rule requiring that at least 50% of production expenses happen inside New Jersey. It was one of six productions to receive the rebate, including “Law & Order: SVU,” which got a $9-million rebate, and two live-wrestling events titled “Hell in a Cell,” which got $400,000.

"There is no discrimination [for] content unless it’s considered pornographic or obscene," Erin Gold, a spokeswoman for the development authority, told The Times. She added: “We just administer the program."

That would mean that the show got a 20% tax break for the costs of filming inside New Jersey between August 2009 and September 2009 — i.e. a tax break for the cost of filming first-season moments such as Snooki getting punched in the face at a Seaside Heights bar.

“The governor’s opinions about 'Jersey Shore' and its New Yorker cast are well-known,” Gov. Chris Christie’s office said in a news release. “They are phonies and the show is a false portrayal of New Jersey and our shore communities. He has also been clear about his belief that film tax-credit programs are not the most effective way to spur economic growth throughout the state.”

Not everyone agrees, including Seaside Heights Mayor P. Kenneth Hershey, who told the Star-Ledger: “The boost to the economy certainly shows. When they are here this place is busy. A lot of the business folks here appreciate that.”

Production spending in New Jersey totaled $2.1 million, according to documents obtained from the development authority by The Times.

Another number of note: "Jersey Shore's" total production costs — including production outside New Jersey and not including post-production costs — was $3 million, according to state documents. (Between July 2008 and April 2009, it cost $69.5 million to make a season of "Law and Order SVU.")

Without an ability to veto the funding, as the governor’s office has said, the outrage may now be a moot point anyway; the show, entering its fifth season, seems poised to stay for the long haul, and the tax program, set to expire in 2015, already has a full slate of productions lined up to receive credits.

“This will be the only award for 'Jersey Shore' or their production company,” Gold said.

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--Matt Pearce
twitter.com/mattdpearce

Photo:  The cast members of MTV's "Jersey Shore" pose at their television home in Seaside Heights, N.J. Credit: Mel Evans / Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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