The never-ending saga of the Pennsylvania state budget has recently ignited another maelstrom of public opinion, this time centered on the possibility of an arts tax.
The tax is a compromise meant to settle (finally) the budget disputes that have been plaguing the state for the better part of a year. It covers most centers of artistic or cultural programming in the state, from zoos and historical sites to museums and plays. In Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, arguably the state’s two cultural nexuses, the tax will be 8 percent; in the rest of the state, it will be 6 percent.
The final intent of the tax — to pay for increases in education and health care, among others — is admirable, but it’s a devastating blow to both citizens and arts groups. Because of a recession, these organizations are already being strangled as families cut back on extraneous spending, and this tax will likely only exacerbate the problem.
This marathon of budget negotiations has included some fairly nightmarish possibilities, including a virtual shutdown of Philadelphia. This ugly solution meant to finally plug the hole, though, can’t be the way to go.
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