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Grassroots Effort Defeats Arts Tax, Groups Continue to Fight for Cultural Sector

Grassroots Effort Defeats Arts Tax, Groups Continue to Fight for Cultural Sector

October 14, 2009
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance
1616 Walnut Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA 19103

John McInerney

Philadelphia, PA – On Friday, Governor Rendell signed a state budget bill that decisively ended the unexpected and last-chance effort to impose a tax on cultural tickets across the state.

“Citizens across the state let their voices be heard.” said Peggy Amsterdam, President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. “Culture is important to them and they won’t stand by when access to affordable arts experiences is threatened.”

Despite the successful battle against the 6% “Arts Tax (which would have removed the current sales tax exemption on cultural event tickets), the final budget reflected declining revenues across the state. Total state spending was down $500 million from FY2009’s total of $28.3 billion and arts and cultural groups, like many others throughout the Commonwealth, saw reduced investments from the state.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funding dropped from $15.2 million in FY09 to $11 million in the current budget, a 28% decrease and the lowest level in a decade. Other cultural groups saw even greater cuts including Public Television (down 88%), Zoos (down 48%), and multiple reductions in funding for museums and historical sites. (A complete list of reductions in state investments in the cultural sector are available at /action/hottopics/6757/arts-culture-pennsylvanias-fy2010-budget).

“We are grateful that legislators recognized the negative impact an arts tax would have on everyday citizens but recognize the difficult situation the state is in,” said Julie Hawkins, Vice President for Cultural Policy for the Cultural Alliance. “However, these deep cuts in funding for the cultural sector will have an immediate impact on cultural programming and services across the state.”

“We will continue to fight for continued investment in our states cultural resources,” said Abbi Peters, Director of the Elks County Council on the Arts. These are resources that enrich residents lives, make our state an attractive destination for visitors and employers, and employ tens of thousands or Pennsylvanians.”

Throughout the effort to defeat the arts tax, cultural advocates and everyday citizen’s successfully countered inaccurate assertions about the cultural sector, highlighting its broad public support, accessibility, and economic impact. While top state leaders met with key legislators in Harrisburg, everyday citizens sent thousands of emails, letters and calls to local legislative offices, driving home the negative impact the arts tax would have on everyday Pennsylvanians.

“We couldn’t believe the groundswell of support and it really had an impact,” said Hawkins. “From rallies across the state to individual calls and letters, thousands of citizens spoke out.”

Key to the broad coalitions success was accurate and compelling information on  the scope and impact of the cultural sector, compiled by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and others. Highlights included:
•    Two out of every 5 visits to cultural organizations are from children.
•    35,000 school groups visit cultural organizations each year.
•    One-third of households in Southeastern Pennsylvania that participate in the arts make less than $60,000 per year.
•    Families and people of color are the most engaged segments of the cultural consumer market.
•    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.
•    A 6% tax on nonprofit organizations across the state would only generate $12 million in revenues.

“The facts are indisputable, the arts are supported and enjoyed by the majority of our states residents,” said Mitch Swain, CEO of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. “This fight has been won, but the battle continues. We need continued investment in our cultural resources if we are to keep them available for everyday citizens of the Commonwealth.”

The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is committed to helping community arts and cultural organizations thrive throughout the area.  The Cultural Alliance is a leadership organization of over 375 nonprofit arts and cultural institutions located primarily in the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania.  Its mission is making Greater Philadelphia the foremost creative region in the world.  For more information, visit

The mission of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council is to make the arts central to the lives of individuals by expanding the reach, influence and effectiveness of the region's diverse cultural community. The Arts Council provides professional development and technical assistance for arts managers and independent artists, ticketing and marketing services, grant programs, pro bono management and legal consulting, support for shared services and partnerships, and a range of advocacy and cultural policy initiatives. For more information, visit

The Elk County Council on the Arts is dedicated to promoting the cultural enrichment of the residents of Elk County by expanding the opportunity for public participation in the arts.  The Council’s goal is to enhance the lives of county residents and the various local arts by offering experiences in the arts, providing educational opportunity and advice, and by supporting performers, musicians, artists and writers. For more information visit