Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell and state lawmakers' proposal to raise $100 million in revenue by taxing arts and cultural institutions is being met with heavy criticism in Philadelphia.
"It's a profoundly stupid idea," said Edward Epstein, executive director of the University City Arts League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to arts education. "It's taxing an area that the government should be making more affordable [and] where there's the most vulnerability."
The budget agreement that was reached on Friday extended the sales tax - which will be 8 percent in Philadelphia starting October 8 - to admissions costs for museums, historical sites, zoos, parks and shows such as theater, dance, concerts and other performing arts.
Peggy Amsterdam, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, told members at the organization's annual meeting on Monday that the proposal was "snuck in at the last minute in a backroom deal."
Amsterdam found fault with the regressive nature of the tax, which will have a more onerous impact on those less able to pay. She also criticized the exception of sporting events and movie tickets from taxation.
The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is among several institutions on campus which are members of the Cultural Alliance.
"We're not sure yet how [the proposal] will affect us," Penn Museum spokeswoman Pam Kosty said, "[or] whether it will affect us."
The Museum's admissions are on a suggested donation basis, meaning the sales tax's impact on the institution is still unclear.
Other organizations, however, will likely suffer from the proposal.
Enrollments at the UCAL were already down because of the state of the economy, Epstein said.
The tax is "not going to make our fees completely unaffordable," but it may make a difference for some people, he said. "We'll see some negative impact."
Amsterdam encouraged individuals to protest the proposal.
"We will clog your fax machines, e-mail and phones," she warned legislators.
Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania generate $1.3 billion in expenditures annually, as well as 40,000 jobs, according to a report by the Cultural Alliance.
"Our activities … are the reason people come to live, work and play in the Commonwealth," Amsterdam said.
However, the report also found that 60 percent of area residents said they would pay more in taxes to support the arts.
Wharton graduate student Nicole Verrochi said the tax would "probably not" influence her decision to visit a cultural institution.
"But it would irritate me," she said, adding that the arts are "a big draw in Philadelphia."Comments powered by Disqus
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