Leaders from PA Statewide Arts and Cultural Organizations Blindsided by Last-Minute Budget Solution

September 22, 2009
Greater Philadelphia Cultural Allian
1616 Walnut Street, Suite 600
Philadelphia, PA  19103

John McInerney

Leaders from PA Statewide Arts and Cultural Organizations Blindsided by Last-Minute Budget Solution
Call for Meeting with Governor Rendell and Key State Legislative Leaders

Philadelphia, PA – September 22, 2009 – Leaders from the state’s arts and cultural organizations today requested a meeting with Gov. Ed Rendell and key state legislators in response to the shocking plan to address the Commonwealth’s budget woes with a new amusement tax on nonprofit arts and cultural event tickets. 

“We never saw this coming,” said Peggy Amsterdam, President of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.  “No one could have anticipated that one of the most vital yet vulnerable sectors would become the target of a tax that puts all arts and cultural organizations at a great competitive disadvantage. This move is devastating to arts and culture across the state on so many levels.” 

The new amusement tax poses significant issues that seriously compound the already challenging economic environment in which arts organizations are operating. There is a perception that arts attendees are all wealthy, but the reality is the average ticket price is only $14 while the actual cost per attendee is $46 and two in five visits are from children. 

Laura Foster, Executive Director of Please Touch Museum, said the additional tax will make arts and culture even less affordable for the diverse audiences museums seek to serve.  “In these tough times, even a small increase in a ticket price can be the deciding factor for a family of four looking to spend an afternoon at Please Touch or the Philadelphia Zoo or at any number of museums that serve families,” Foster said. “We have developed many access programs so that families of varying means can visit, and we want to make sure Please Touch Museum continues to be accessible to all families.”

In a recent Cultural Alliance survey, 80 percent of arts and cultural organizations are reporting stable ticket sales as compared to last year and are counting on tickets purchased to help fill the gap produced by declining government and philanthropic support. 

“It is frightening to imagine arts organizations trying to weather another hit to their bottom lines.  This tax is completely counter-intuitive; as an industry, we generate $283 million in state and local taxes.  Now the state is going to layer on an amusement tax that could force what we currently generate downward and cripple the very source of those revenues. This tax is a very bad and desperate idea,” said Mitch Swain, President of the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council.

“We don’t think the legislature has any idea of the importance of arts and culture to people across the state,” said Hal Real, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance.  “It is hard to comprehend that live arts and culture audiences would be punished while sports fans and movie-goers are spared.  It is shameful to have to say that we live in a state that is governed without a sense of shared sacrifice.  How could legislators gleefully pony up hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for sports arenas that benefit private sports team owners and leave those tickets untaxed?” 

Statewide, there are 4,900 arts and cultural organizations in Pennsylvania; 86 percent of those organizations are community based and have annual operating budgets of less than $250,000.

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 www.philaculture.org