State budget guts film commission

Program likely to operate with $1.2 mil rather than $12 mil

The already-shaky outlook for the California Film Commission worsened Tuesday as state legislators hammered out a compromise 2003-04 budget to close the state’s $38 billion deficit.

If, as expected, Gov. Gray Davis signs the budget — which slashes funding for dozens of programs — the commission will operate with $1.2 million, or 10% of the $12 million that was allocated in the 2002-03 fiscal year.

The $100 billion budget specifies that the commission’s operations be limited to film permitting and servicing as part of a proposal to shutter the Technology, Trade and Commerce economic development agency — which oversees the commission and five other agencies.

The commission’s operations will be shifted to the Business, Transportation and Housing agency.

Such a move effectively ends marketing and incentive efforts, including the 2-year-old Film California First incentive program to subsidize fees paid by producers for government services during filming on public property.

The state’s legislative analyst recommended killing the Film California First program in February as part of dozens of cuts to close the deficit.

Showbiz orgs including the DGA and the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers actively lobbied for the program, contending it prevents producers from fleeing to cheaper locations outside California.

Program has allocated a total of $16 million in rebates for 2,800 productions since it was launched in order to put the brakes on runaway production.

The incentive program proved so popular that by the end of February, producers had tapped out the entire $7.9 million allocation in rebate funds for the fiscal year ended June 30.

The commission has asserted that more than 130,000 below-the-line jobs have been positively affected by the FCF program during the past two years.

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