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California’s Budget Cuts: The Good, The Bad And The ‘Ugly Betty’

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On Monday, amidst all of the confusion, turmoil and anger surrounding California’s budget crisis, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced who the first recipients of a brand new tax credit will be. And no, it won’t be going to programs that help low-income families without health insurance, developmentally disabled children or victims of domestic violence.

In fact, those programs were all cut from the budget. The tax credit will actually be given to, gasp!, the entertainment industry. Over 25 films and TV shows, including The Second Wives Club, Naked Gun 4, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, and Comedy Central’s Important Things With Demetri Martin, will be among the first recipients of very lucrative tax incentives.

According to the LA Times, Schwarzenegger will refund as much as 20-25% of the total money spent on below-the-line production costs.  The plan reached priority status earlier this year after the news hit that ABC Studios would be moving production of Ugly Betty from LA to New York. Who knew that a stupid ripoff of a Colombian telenovela could shake up a state’s economy so much?

In this statement to Variety, Schwarzenegger attempts to explain the importance of the program:

What happened was productions that shifted to other states didn’t come back to California; they went to Louisiana, they went to Florida, they went New Mexico because they give great tax incentives.

Last February, at the Governor’s urging, the California legislature voted in favor of the new tax incentive program, which will shell out as much as $500 million. Coincidentally or not, that’s the exact same amount being cut from state programs in the budget plan that Schwarzenegger signed yesterday.

Apparently for lawmakers in California, Hollywood takes priority. Who needs more social programs, anyway? Well, besides the millions of underprivileged citizens. Don’t get me wrong, I live and breathe the entertainment industry (hell, I even blog about it) but it’s weird that it should be the first to receive tax credit benefits.

If there’s one business that’s prospering in this economy, it’s Hollywood. Oh well. I suppose it’s better than building more prisons to house marijuana possessers or staging another MJ memorial.

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