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Rob McCord's Position on Arts and Culture

Rob McCord provides answers to seven questions regarding arts and culture:

 

1. Funding for Grants to the Arts, through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, has received a 47% cut since 2008. These grants reach non-profit arts organizations in all 67 counties, in both rural and urban communities and organizations both small and large. The program is currently funded at $8.179 million and ranks 24th nationally in per capita funding at $0.71. With the exception of West Virginia, all the states contiguous to Pennsylvania rank higher. Would you support an increase, over the next three years, to $1.66 per capita which represents the average of the per capita number of the states bordering the Commonwealth? Why or why not?

RM: I fully support increased funding for the arts and for venues and organizations that preserve and celebrate our rich heritage and culture. Real thought leaders recognize creativity is now a prime driver of economic competitiveness. The new economy is based on and dependent on innovation and creativity. According to the National Governors Association, the rate of growth in creative industries is twice that of service and manufacturing industries. We need investments in arts and culture to enrich the mind, body and spirit of people of all ages with an appreciation for creativity and expression.

2. In 2009, Governor Rendell cut the $9 million grant-making budget for PHMC for grants to non- state-owned museums and historical sites. In 2013 Governor Corbett created a new line item for Cultural and Historical Support grants to non-state-owned museums and historical sites, which continue to be funded at $2 million. Due to the decrease in funding for the grant program, grants are only issued to museums and historical sites with larger budgets and thus, small non- state-owned organizations are shut out from the process. Would you support an increase in the Cultural and Historical Support grants in order to make it more comparable to the $8.179 million that PCA receives from the state for grant-making?

RM: I do support an increase, and further, I support opening up the program to other organizations to compete for those dollars. Pennsylvania’s cultural and heritage venues are large reasons why tourism ranks as the Commonwealth’s second largest industry. These venues are assets to us, and just as in any business, we need to invest in them because they generate a positive return for our economy.

The arts, entertainment and recreation sector accounts for nearly 100,000 jobs in Pennsylvania, and the state Tourism Office reports the sector contributes more than $2.3 billion to our economy. These are real and quantifiable benefits to our state that we should not ignore when determining how we can best utilize limited state resources.

3. There are several bills in the General Assembly that deal with dedicated funding for arts and culture. These bills direct funds from either the collection of the realty transfer tax or the hotel occupancy sales tax, all revenue from the General Fund, to these dedicated funding streams. Would you support dedicated funding streams for arts and culture? How might dedicated funding streams affect arts and culture line items in the state budget?

RM: I agree that there needs to be a stable source of funding. As part of my economic development and jobs plan, I’ve proposed dedicated funding for the tourism industry, which will benefit arts and cultural organizations directly and indirectly. Specifically, I’ve proposed using a dedicated portion of sales and use tax collections and closing exemptions on hotel occupancy taxes to provide Pennsylvania’s a much-needed reliable funding stream.

4. Currently the arts (visual arts and music) are not considered a core academic subject in Pennsylvania as they are under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Would you support the inclusion of the arts as a core subject?

RM: Yes. The arts should be part of the curriculum in every public school because subjects like art and music help to enrich students’ experiences and can be highly correlated to success in other subjects. Many of these courses are electives for students, but unfortunately there are fewer from which to choose. This year, 37 percent of school districts said they would offer fewer elective courses. That’s on top of the 43 percent and 44 percent that cut electives in each of the previous two years (2013 and 2012, respectively). I am open to considering the arts as a core subject, but only after we have fully repaired and restored the damage done by years of Governor Corbett’s cuts and we have the additional resources to devote to developing and testing these standards so school districts don’t face additional unfunded burdens.

5. Would you be supportive of increasing the capacity of the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to target specifically STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) programs in its provisions for contributions to approved Educational Improvement Organizations?

RM: I support the EITC program as a means through which the private sector can offer students – particularly disadvantaged, low-income students in struggling school districts – the opportunity to pursue their academic success in the environment that best fits their needs. As governor, I will preserve the program at its current level. Restoring funds to Pennsylvania’s public school districts will be my top education priority as governor.

6. Pennsylvania has been heralded as “Hollywood East.” The state’s Film Production Tax Credit has been responsible for creating 18,000 jobs and generating $2.7 billion in economic activity since 2007. But with the tax credit cap set at $60 million, Pennsylvania has lost out on blockbuster filming opportunities to states like Massachusetts, which has no cap. Would you support uncapping the film production tax credit to attract more film business to Pennsylvania?

RM: I wholeheartedly agree that the Film Tax Credit Program has been a tremendous success for Pennsylvania. It’s clear that others have recognized this, too, as even once-vocal opponents now favor the program. As governor, I fully intend to increase the amount made available through the program so we can attract more production work to the state, but I will maintain a cap because I believe that is a prudent means of preserving accountability and budgeting responsibly.

7. 12 states, including Maryland and West Virginia, have formal state policies to incentivize the creation of cultural districts which have been proven to trigger economic development and neighborhood revitalization because of what arts and culture actually does: bring tourist spending, attract creative businesses, increase property values, etc. Cultural districts, which number 156 nationally, are in both urban and rural settings. Policies to support the creation of these districts include state tax incentives to leverage local investment in the arts and culture and technical assistance programs. Is state policy to help create local cultural districts through Pennsylvania an idea you could support?

RM: Yes! Cultural districts can play a vital role in downtown revitalization efforts. Specifically, I look at Pittsburgh’s cultural district or Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts as proof that cultural opportunities draw people and development. As someone who is driven by data and information, I’ve been interested in the work by the University of Pennsylvania’s Social Impact of the Arts Project and The Reinvestment Fund as it could serve as a good foundation to discuss policy alternatives that facilitate the development of cultural or creative neighborhoods and placebuilding.