Days after local politicians and the MPA trumpeted that Georgia is reopening its busy film and TV production sector, the future of its lucrative tax credit incentive program suddenly appears cloudy. The state’s Senate Finance Committee has axed parts of wider legislation that would have expanded the program that’s worth $800 million a year.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that one member of the panel raised the idea of capping the Peach State’s tax credit spending but another said the issue should be studied further. The paper noted that Georgia spends far more on tax credits for the film industry than it does on most state agencies and programs.
The news comes on the first business day after Georgia’s Senate approved $2.6 billion in cuts to the state budget amid lagging revenue spurred by the coronavirus crisis.
The state is a massive film and TV production hub, but Georgia and Hollywood have had an up-and-down relationship in recent years. The state offers one of the most lucrative tax-incentive programs for productions and employs tens of thousands of workers. Gov. Brian Kemp said on June 12 that “the major motion picture, television, and streaming companies plan to bring back and hire an estimated 40,000 production workers, who will be employed on an expected 75 production projects that will invest over $2 billion into the Georgia economy during the next eighteen months.”
But the state saw backlash from the entertainment industry and elsewhere last year over its so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which would outlaw abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is earlier than many women become aware they are pregnant. Tensions escalated and production boycotts were threatened after Kemp signed the bill into law last summer. Then in October, a federal judge blocked the legislation.
But just last week, the controversial ban resurfaced as the measure’s opposing sides faced off in a court hearing where reproductive rights groups asked a judge to make a temporary ban on the so-called Heartbeat Bill permanent. Hollywood is continuing to watch the situation.