Proposal would leave program with $7.9 mil

Gov. Gray Davis has proposed slicing $2.1 million from the Film California First incentive program as part of dozens of recommended spending cuts to narrow the state’s $21 billion deficit.

The reductions, which include massive cuts in school and health spending, will be debated in a special session of the State Legislature due to be convened today.

The cuts to Film California First –a program, designed to curb runaway production, which reimburses state and local agencies for film production costs — will leave it with $7.9 million during the current fiscal year ending June 30. What cuts to the program Davis will propose for the 2003-04 budget were not specified. Davis noted in his proposal that the program has provided about $8 million annually in such reimbursements.

“We recognize that the cuts are necessary,” said Norman Williams, assistant secretary of the Technology, Trade & Commerce Agency, which administers the program. “We think we’ll still be able to cover the demand.”

The program was created in 2000, when Davis tapped the state’s surplus and initiated a three-year, $45 million program to subsidize production costs through rebates to producers to cover costs of state and federal employees, property use fees, safety costs and public equipment fees.

Davis and the state Legislature have cut the funding in each of the last two fiscal years to $10 million.

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