Film Industry Rebate Debate Hits Sarasota Mailboxes

Todays News

The question of whether state incentives should go to Florida film productions led a conservative group to paper Sarasota mailboxes with a political message last week. 

The words “Stop the Hollywood Handouts!” blared in large type on political mailers sent by Americans For Prosperity, a right-leaning group that has opined against any types of incentives for years. The mailers also included a picture of Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who for several years has sponsored legislation to create a new rebate program.

Officials at AFP say it’s nothing personal.

“AFP regularly engages citizens of all kinds in communities across the state, sharing information about policy proposals that affect their daily lives,” said Skyler Zander, AFP’s state director. In just the first weeks of this year, we have sent out tens of thousands of mailers on key issues to households from Pensacola to the Florida Keys. We celebrate policies that advance a free and open society while shining a spotlight on shortsighted proposals that would diminish or dilute our freedoms – and we do it, always, without focusing exclusively on any particular political party or individual official."

Gruters has said Florida needs something to attract film productions back to Florida. “This will bring a needed boost to our economy,” he has said at Senate committee hearings on the legislation.

Gruters' legislation would establish a rebate program that may make as much as $2 million in rebates available to productions, but only once projects are completed and they can verify certain guidelines were met. That includes hiring 70% of cast and crew from the state of Florida. Keeping projects that employee Florida film professionals would be an important way to keep graduates from top film schools like Ringling College of Art & Design in the state once they graduate, he said. Instead, many graduates leave to do projects in other states.

There’s particularly urgency for Florida as Georgia has become a new film capital, in part thanks to a generous incentives program there. Long-running series like The Walking Dead and blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame shot there.

The AFP mailer argues now isn’t the time to give money to the film industry. “While Gas Prices are Rising and Grocery Prices are Soaring, Politicians in Tallahassee are Focused on Giving Away Millions in Taxpayer Dollars to Hollywood Movie Moguls,” the flyer states.

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