Why Georgia's film tax credit could be in the crosshairs in 2016

There might not be a powerful public effort yet to repeal some of Georgia’s most lucrative tax breaks. But Gov. Nathan Deal and his aides signaled Tuesday they take that threat seriously.

The Republican devoted a part of his annual speech to the state’s top corporate leaders at the Eggs & Issues breakfast to a defense of the tax breaks that have made Georgia a hub for the film industry.

Also lodged in his remarks was a calibrated defense of the tax hike that will bring in about $1 billion a year for transportation.

The governor said it was worth the tradeoff, citing a trade industry group’s figures to back him up: The film and television industry is responsible for more than 79,000 jobs, roughly $4 billion in wages and has helped bring 120 more firms to Georgia in the last seven years.

And then came the hammer:

“So let me state here and now that I am committed to protecting the film tax credits that make this type of blockbuster economic impact possible.  Why would anyone want to make changes to our current system which would only infringe on an industry that employs thousands of Georgians, brings new business to our state regularly and generates billions of dollars in our statewide economy?  We have found an incentives structure that works. I see no need to alter or fix something that is not broken.”

There has been no visible, coordinated effort to target that tax break. But anti-tax advocates have been more critical of another plan Deal is set to defend this year: The package of new fees and tax hikes that will fund new transportation improvements.

Anti-tax crusaders, tea party members and fiscal conservatives have lobbed unrelenting attacks at supporters of the plan, which Republican state Sen. Bill Heath called “the largest tax increase in Georgia’s history.”

Several of the measure’s GOP supporters already face the threat of primary challenges from their right flank, and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist recently put House Speaker David Ralston on his year-end “naughty” list for his role in pushing the tax hike.

Deal told a receptive crowd – the event was put on by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, after all – that the bill “paves the way forward” to boost business in Georgia.

“Thanks to the bold action of the General Assembly, we have removed an impediment to proper road maintenance,” he said. “We can now not only build new highways, we can better maintain and improve the roads and bridges we have.”

Read more about the film tax credit's impact here.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.