The Jolt: Deal heads to Hollywood with pledge that film tax credit is safe

Gov. Nathan Deal touted the state’s booming film industry during Film Day in March 2017. Now, Georgia-filmed productions represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in Fiscal Year 2017. JENNIFER BRETT / AJC

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Gov. Nathan Deal touted the state’s booming film industry during Film Day in March 2017. Now, Georgia-filmed productions represent $2.7 billion in direct spending in Fiscal Year 2017. JENNIFER BRETT / AJC

Gov. Nathan Deal is making his annual journey to Los Angeles to court Hollywood executives for the state's booming film business. And he'll bring with him assurances that a lucrative tax credit that fuels the industry will continue after he leaves office.

That’s because the three contenders running to replace him all have pledged to keep the incentives in place after Deal leaves office in January.

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee, said she’s “committed to maintaining state support of tax credits” for the industry and touted her 2008 vote in favor of the credits, which allows filmmakers to offset as much as 30 percent of production expenses.

Both Republicans in the July 24 runoff back the initiative, despite pressure from fiscal conservatives in their party.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle trumpets how the incentives boosted “Georgia’s prospering film industry.” And Secretary of State Brian Kemp said although he wants to review every tax credit and repeal the ones that don’t offer robust economic benefits, he makes an exception for the film program, which he said has already been “thoroughly vetted.”

“As governor, I will push to preserve this important tax incentive so studios can expand their footprint and invest in our communities,” said Kemp.

The incentives, which started under Sonny Perdue and were expanded by Deal, have transformed Georgia into a major film hub. The state has handed out more than $1 billion in tax credits, making Georgia the third-busiest producer of films and TV shows in the nation.

ExploreFor an in-depth primer on the credits, check out our AJC colleague Rodney Ho’s piece.

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We reported earlier the news that former state Sen. Rick Jeffares, who finished third in last week's GOP runoff for lieutenant governor, endorsed state Sen. David Shafer's campaign.

Now we have word from his opponent in the July 24 runoff, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, that Jeffares may not have been forthcoming with him.

In a text message to Jeffares earlier this week shared with us, Duncan said he was “catching wind that your meeting with Shafer in Henry County tomorrow to cut a deal.”

“I’m hoping this is not accurate based on our very clear mutual agreement on Tuesday morning to endorse each other if one of us was in the runoff,” wrote Duncan, who wrote of the “multiple references you made about Shafer’s lack of character.”

Jeffares urged him to chill.

“Rumors are always rumors, yes I’m meeting with Shafer but I promise no deals are being struck, want to see him sweat a little.”

We guess he’s done sweating.

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Republican John Hitchins, who nearly unseated Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore in last week's primary vote, said he won't be supporting the victor in November.

Hitchins tweeted that he’ll be “supporting one of the challengers and not my party (or the status quo) because this is a non-partisan issue. It is a Georgia ratepayers vs. special interests issue.” He indicated that he’ll back Libertarian John Turpish.

Pridemore narrowly defeated Hitchins, a political newcomer, and will face Democrat Dawn Randolph and Turpish in the November.