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Georgia Production Tax Credit Bill Is Dead

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Georgia Production Tax Credit Bill Is Dead

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Georgia’s legislative session is a wrap, burying with it a tortured bill on state film and television production tax credits — to the relief of Hollywood, indie producers and Georgia sound stage owners.

“Georgia is open for business and continues as a premier destination for film and television production. After much study and debate, the General Assembly has kept in place the tax credit policy that has served the state so well, working exactly as intended,” said Kelsey Moore, Executive Director of the Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition.

“We appreciate the leadership that Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, House Speaker Jon Burns and legislators on both sides of the aisle have shown on this issue. Our state leadership has sent a clear statement, literally across the world, that Georgia strongly supports the film industry,” she said in a statement overnight.

That the bill failed isn’t a huge surprise given Georgia’s thriving production industry. What was unexpected is that the bill was revived at the last minute and came down to the wire. HB 1180 was cooked in the Senate earlier this week after a revision thoroughly “pissed off people who liked a cap, and who didn’t like a cap,” said one person following the debate. It was “a very unlikeable bill for both sides of the issue.”

It reappeared as a ‘Frankenbill’ (combined with low income housing tax credits for the disabled, and the creation of a Special Commission In Date Center Energy Planning) in a last ditch attempt that petered out in the Senate. This last version was most similar to the first, which caused Hollywood much angst by putting a limit on annual tax credit transfers — to 2.5% of the state budget – or about $900 million at current levels. In the bill that died tonight, the cap would only have been triggered if the state found itself in dire financial straits, specifically “in any calendar year following a fiscal year in which the funds in the Revenue Shortfall Reserve are less than 10% of the previous fiscal year’s net revenue.” That was meant to be a rare event, but how rare and how often wasn’t clear.

The version just before that one had basically scrapped the cap by exempting the biggest sound stages in the state and productions that filmed there, creating two-tiered system that many lawmakers disliked. But in the end, no version of the bill had enough support to make it through.

The General Assembly gathers again in January, the start of a new two-year legislative session, which would require a new bill from scratch.

That will never be easy. Legislators tried and failed two years ago to pass a bill capping incentives and making them non-transferable.

Film and TV production in Georgia creates jobs and economic impact. According to poll results released yesterday by FGS Global on behalf of Moore’s Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition, eight in ten likely voters in the state say the film and TV production industry has a positive impact on Georgia’s economy, a sentiment shared by three quarters of likely GOP primary voters. The firm interviewed 1,000 likely voters, with a “oversample” of 300 likely Republican voters. The generous tax credits have lured a flow of projects that has made the state one of the top production destinations in the world.

But tax credits also squeeze revenue and an unlimited tax credit like Georgia’s gives the state little visibility on the hit year to year, according to sponsors of the original bill that set an annual limit but allowed credits above the cap to be sold the next year. Most of Georgia’s credits come from out-of-state entities that can’t use them so transfer, or sell, them to local businesses or high net worth individuals in what has become a thriving market.

The bill’s sponsors insisted the annual limit was not punitive, just a way to give the state some predictability. Critics warned it would create uncertainty and discourage production, which would be a big problem for the state where a local crew base and infrastructure has ramped up dramatically to serve the industry. Their voices won.

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