Phone call from a Representative of the House

Yesterday I shared an email from the Easton State Theatre regarding the upcoming entertainment tax. On the advice of that very email, I decided to write to our reps (you should, too!)

Dear Representatives & Senators of PA:

What a sad day in the history of the arts in Pennsylvania. It is an embarrassment and an absolute shame that Governor Rendell has included a provision in the PA budget to extend Pennsylvania’s 6% sales tax to include concert and theatre tickets.

Various organizations have reached out to the community to inform us, and ask for help. We are told that this new provision would apply to non-profit theatres, as well as commercial venues. Cultural events, dance programs, museums, zoos. Is it not clear that families have a difficult enough time taking their children to educational venues? Now in addition to some existing “entertainment” or “amusement” taxes, we are paying an additional tax for going out and give back to the local businesses we support. Many of these local businesses are non-profit organizations, and a tax like this means an extraordinary burden for the business and for it’s patrons.

Please speak out on behalf of the Pennsylvanian arts community, and on behalf of local families who save their paychecks to spend a night at the theater. Don’t let this provision pass.

Would you believe that I received a phone call in response to my email? It’s true. No more than 5 minutes after I hit the send button, my office phone rang and it was Representative Steve Samuelson (D-PA).

In the 15 minute conversation that followed, he gave a lot of information and answered all of my questions. Apparently the beginning of this arts budget battle began with the House asking for an 8% cut in arts funding, while the Senate Republicans wanted 100% (31 of them voted for this).  Now we are in a situation where the compromise is steep for both sides, but the resulting 34% is far better than 100%.

My understanding is that the objective is not to raise any broad base tax (like MA, AZ and other states). There is now an 8% sales tax in the City of Philadelphia and a 7% sales tax in Pittsburgh. Other taxing possibilities (in lieu of broad base taxation) could include raising business tax, cigarette tax. The end result is a negotiation completed by next week, and a final decision by next Wednesday at the latest.The tax would be effective immediately but it might take about 30-60 days for the entertainment tax to make a debut on our receipts for concert tickets, museum passes and other performances.

At the time of my conversation (22 September, 6pm EDT) Mr. Samuelson had already received 15 emails courtesy of the State Theatre.

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One thought on “Phone call from a Representative of the House

  1. .. and a follow up email arrived shortly thereafter!

    Samuelson, Steve wrote:

    Here are the numbers on the competing budget proposals for the Grants to the Arts line item. There are about 65 organizations (and individuals) in the Lehigh Valley that received funding from this line item in 2008-09.

    Arts Funding (the Grants to the Arts line item)

    15,225,000 2008-09 budget

    14,000,000 Governor’s proposed budget for 2009-2010 (originally proposed in February 2009, updated as of 6-26-09)

    0 Original Senate Republican budget (passed the Senate 30-20 on 5-6-09)

    0 House Republican budget amendment (Civera amendment, which was defeated 95-103 on 7-16-09)

    14,000,000 House Democratic budget (passed the House 104-95 on 7-17-09)

    0 Senate Republican budget (passed the Senate 31-19 on 7-20-09 and was rejected by the House 49-150 on 7-21-09)

    5,000,000 Most recent House Republican budget proposal (HB 1943 which was introduced on 8-20-09)

    The conference committee has been reconciling differences between the House budget which passed 7-17-09 (with an 8 percent cut in arts funding) and the Senate budget which passed 7-20-09 (with a 100 percent cut in arts funding). The latest House Republican budget proposal (8-20-09) has a 67 percent cut in arts funding.

    Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania (an arts advocacy organization) has been circulating an email reporting that they have heard that the final budget agreement has $10 million for arts grants, which would represent a 34 percent cut. Until the budget agreement is in print, individual line items are still being negotiated. There has not yet been an official announcement.

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