Current film incentives to end after Governor's decision to not call special session

Published: Sep. 18, 2014 at 2:47 AM EDT
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The decision all but guarantees the current film incentive in the state will end at the close...
The decision all but guarantees the current film incentive in the state will end at the close of the calendar year. (Source: NC Governor's Office)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory released a video Friday announcing that he will not call the General Assembly back for a special session. The decision all but guarantees the current film incentive in the state will end at the close of the calendar year.

The current film incentive program is set to expire at the end of 2014. Lawmakers approved a $10 million film grant program instead, which some industry supporters say is not enough to maintain the current business the film industry brings to the state.

In recent weeks, city of Wilmington and Pender County officials along with thousands of film employees and employers were hoping McCrory would call lawmakers back for a special session for a last chance effort at saving the current film incentive program. That will not be the case.

"I've decided not to call our legislators back for a special session," Governor McCrory said on the video. "It would be counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer money to bring the General Assembly back when there is no agreement in place on issues already voted on. And after a lengthy session, they need a break.  And frankly, I need a break from them. However, if a major job recruitment effort develops and it requires legislative support, I will bring lawmakers back to Raleigh."

Many in our area are worried without larger tax incentives for the film industry, productions will choose other states with more lucrative tax credits. Representatives Susi Hamilton (D) and Ted Davis (R) both sent McCrory a letter requesting a special session.

Hamilton said she had not heard McCrory's decision until a reporter called her Friday afternoon.

"Why in the world wouldn't he call us back to promote business interests in this state, including the 4,200 jobs associated with film and the $306 million the industry spent here," Hamilton asked. "What's it going to look like when that goes?"

Wilmington Regional Film Commission Director Johnny Griffin said supporters will look to change things in 2015.

"Disappointing for all economic development projects," Griffin emailed. "We will get busy trying to use the meager grant fund that was created and hope for success, however limited it will be. We look forward to the legislature convening in January in hopes of repairing the damage that has been created."

Bill Vassar, Executive Vice President of EUE/Screen Gems in Wilmington, said about the governor's decision, "We are disappointed that the Governor did not think it important to deal with the economic development issues facing our state at this time. We look forward to dealing positively with this issue in the future."

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is also weighing in on the decision.

Just like other lawmakers and film representatives, Hagan says she's made calls to the Governor, but they too have gone unanswered.

"A lot of these individuals have been here for years. They've got homes, they've got kids in schools. They've got mortgages right here in North Carolina and they are leaving," said Hagan. "That is just not using the powers of elected office to really build up the economy in North Carolina."

Americans for Prosperity has opposed the effort to extend the film incentives among some other economic development moves under consideration.

"We are very happy with Governor McCrory's decision and steadfastness in the face of special interest pressure," Donald Bryson, North Carolina State Director for Americans for Prosperity, said in an emailed statement.

"The time for corporate welfare and special interest handouts is ending in North Carolina. Special sessions of this type may have happened in the past, but Governor McCrory made the right decision to not waste taxpayer money on a special session, and allow further debate on the issue of state incentives," Bryson continued.

Hamilton said the fact that the session was not called in unforgivable.

"We're very scared and they're certainly upset and they have a cause to be. I'm upset for the state of North Carolina. The fact that we are so short in our revenue projections is unforgivable," Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, the impact of that decision may send some local workers packing -- taking their tax dollars along with them.

Chris Bromley, a Wilmington resident, has worked in the film industry for 26 years.

He's been a Unit Production manager on local projects like The Conjuring and Tammy.

For workers like Bromley, a special session was their last hope for extending the state's film tax credit. Bromley tells us he speaks for thousands of other people who are not only worried about their livelihood -- but also their entire lifestyle.

"For me personally, it means uprooting family, leaving friends, taking my son out of high school and making him relocate to another high school," said Bromley. "Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana have all been actively calling and encouraging people to come to work for them."

McCrory said in his statement if a major recruitment effort develops that needs legislative support, he will call lawmakers back to Raleigh.

Governor McCrory did address a topic he has been trying to push through the General Assembly since he took office -- regulations for commercial dog breeders.

The topic was eliminated from consideration by the State Senate this year after a controversial meeting between State Senator Bill Rabon (R) from Brunswick County and his constituents.

"The first lady and myself are going to help implement common sense rules for commercial dog breeders," McCrory stated.

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