On Wednesday, leaders from the states arts and cultural organizations met with key legislative officials including Governor Rendell to protest the proposed tax on cultural activity. Julie Hawkins (VP Cultural Policy) and April Williamson from the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
; Mitch Swain (CEO) and Ryan Freytag (Mgr Cultural Policy) from the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council; and Abbi Peters (ED) from the Elks Council on the Arts attended a series of meetings in Harrisburg.
We had frank discussions with legislative leaders, but the prognosis does not look good, said Julie Hawkins VP of Cultural Policy at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. We will continue to fight this tax, we think it doesnt make sense and will adversely impact everyday citizens who attend the thousands of nonprofit arts and cultural organizations around the state.
The visit was prompted by last weeks shocking news that the Commonwealths legislative leaders had patched together a last-minute budget agreement by enacting a sales tax on nonprofit arts and cultural event tickets. In a series of meetings on Wednesday, arts and culture leaders protested the move and requested that legislators include them in any additional negotiations surrounding the proposed tax.
Arts and Culture leaders met with Gov. Rendell, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, and a number of other legislators and their staff. Additional requests are outstanding to meet with Majority Appropriations Chairman Dwight Evans and House Minority Leader Sam Smith.
People across the Commonwealth were blindsided by this closed-door political process, said Peggy Amsterdam, President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. We requested meetings with key leaders and the governor to be sure our voices were heard in this debate.
While politicians were cobbling together a late-night agreement last week that willfully attacks our communities, they were careful not to include us at the table, Peggy Amsterdam continued. We went to Harrisburg today with a clear message: we will not sit passively while serious decisions are made that will cripple a critical driver sector of our economy and negatively impact Pennsylvania families.
This tax effectively raises our ticket prices at a time when our members are offering discounts and special promotions to be accessible to everyone, said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. The ticket or admission price rarely pays for the full cost of our performances and exhibits. Raising our prices now will make it more difficult for families to attend and for school children to gain access to our many educational opportunities.
Today we presented the governor and legislative leaders with indisputable facts about the arts and culture sector and the risks this new tax would create for its future viability, said Abbi Peters, Executive Director of the Elk County Council on the Arts. We also worked to dispel myths about who this tax would impact. The fact is there are 4,900 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Pennsylvania and 86% of these organizations are small, community-based, and volunteer-driven with annual operating budgets of less than $250,000.
While this tax will have a dramatic impact on a broad base of nonprofit and forprofit cultural activity, a 6% tax on tickets at PA nonprofit cultural orgs would yield only $12.96 million, less than 13% of the total revenue projected by legislators. (based on statewide nonprofit ticket sales as reported to the PA Cultural Data Project).
The new sales tax poses significant issues that seriously compound the already challenging economic environment in which arts organizations are operating. In a devastating economic environment, in the Greater Philadelphia region alone, 40% of nonprofit cultural organizations reported an annual deficit and cannot sustain the loss of audience expected as a result of a discriminatory unfair tax on culture. Statewide, Pennsylvania s 12.4 million residents enjoy 30.6 million visits to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations every year.