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Bill to cap tax credits for Georgia film industry put on hold for revisions

Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 6:52 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A big development today in the effort to limit Georgia’s tax credit for the film industry.

The income bill passed out the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday. One section included placing a cap on the Georgia film tax credit at $900 million. The bill was headed to a full vote in the State Senate when it was sent back to the rules committee to be revised.

The move came after major push back from people in the film industry.

Currently, Georgia’s film tax credit program offers more than $1 billion in tax credits.

HB1347 overall is intended to offer tax breaks for lower-income Georgians, but within the bill is what’s considered a major blow to the film industry. It also blocks a film company’s ability to transfer or sell their film tax credits.

State Sen. Nan Orrock told Senators this would impact the more than 75,000 people that currently work in the film and TV industry in Georgia and that the cut was not rational or based in research.

“There’s a lot of productions currently filming in Georgia,” said J.D. Schwalm, whose company Innovation Workshop, which makes special effects props, out of Grant Park. “We’re probably the busiest we’ve been in a long time,” Schwalm told CBS46. “All these guys and girls make a great rate and a good wage. Well over $100k a year,” he added.

That’s all possible partly because of Georgia’s generous film tax credit program.

“We came to Georgia to start working on one film and as the films started stacking up we just decided to stay,” Schwalm said. “I think the tax credit has helped build what you see here.”

“There are personal chefs that we are paying for, trainers, private jets are unlimited and we think many things shouldn’t be paid for by Georgia,’ Sen. Senator Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, who is one of the authors of the bill. He doesn’t think Georgia is making a the best investment with the program.

“I do think it’s something we need to look at,” Hufstetler told CBS46. “One out of every 12 dollars of our income tax in Georgia go to this one industry that’s about a half a percent of the economy.”

Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, however has argued that the industry has catapulted Georgia to be the 3rd best place in the country to film. She voted against the measure.

“From north Georgia to south Georgia, films are being made all over the state,” Orrock said. “There are sound stages everywhere. There is a thriving film industry here because we opened the door and put out the roll carpet.”

Georgia’s IATSE President Ray Brown told CBS46 that the bill, “would crush the industry as we know it.”

Lawmakers plan to revise it in the Senate rules committee Thursday and vote Friday. House Speaker David Ralston Wednesday evening indicated he does not have an appetite for cutting down the film tax credit.

“I don’t have an interest in running the film industry out of Georgia,” Ralston said, adding that the bill still has to come back to the House after a possible Senate vote.

“I believe the bill will come back on Friday. It is my hope that it will not include a death blow to the film industry,” Orrock said.