As Georgia gains film work, California may hike incentives

California lawmakers are looking at quadrupling their incentives for film and television production to keep jobs from fleeing to states and countries that provide richer perks to the movie business.

The move is a direct response to places such as Georgia, which has seen a five-fold increase in production spending compared to 2008, when the Peach State put in place some of the most lucrative film incentive programs in the country. The state says production spending was $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2014 and the industry employs 23,500 people.

Gov. Nathan Deal and other top Georgia lawmakers have hailed the incentives as job creators, but critics say the tax credits are a costly giveaway to a rich industry and create mainly lower-wage jobs for locals. Several states have begun to reassess or curtail incentive programs because of concerns about cost.

But so many behind-the-camera jobs for carpenters, makeup artists and camera operators have leaked out of California, backers say more incentives are needed.

“This represents a responsible and significant investment in the future of California’s middle-class,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a backer of the new program, told the Los Angeles Times last week.

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A bill to boost California’s tax incentive program to $400 million passed a key state Senate panel last week, according the Times. The measure also eliminates a lottery system in which projects shot in California competed for incentives from the state. The bill still needs approval by the California Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The newspaper, citing information from FilmLA Inc., reported that feature film production is down by half in Los Angeles County since 1996, and the production of television pilots is down by nearly three-quarters since 2007.

A spokeswoman for Georgia’s film office said the agency does not comment on other states’ incentive programs, but no changes are planned to Georgia’s program. Georgia offers tax credits of up to 30 percent for qualified spending.

Incentives come at a cost to Georgia taxpayers.

Film tax credits resulted in a hit of at least $250 million to the state treasury from 2008 to 2011, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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