Regarding PA Senate Bill 850 and The Arts:

Regarding PA Senate Bill 850 and The Arts: An Open Letter to Relevant Pennsylvania State Legislators, Administrators, Citizens, And Anyone Else Who Might Want To Get Involved In This Mess

Governor Ed Rendell has signed legislation that provides a temporary budget for the state of Pennsylvania. It’s flawed, incomplete by his own admission- but it ensures that state workers will be able to take paychecks home. In his statement to the press, he said, “I believe the bill presented to me for signature today is technically flawed and cannot be viewed as a constitutionally balanced budget enacted with the best interests of the citizens of Pennsylvania in mind; therefore, I am exercising my constitutional right to line item veto all but those appropriations that will allow state employees to be paid and those serving immediate basic health and safety purposes.”

State workers should get paid, and basic health and safety purposes need to be addressed. Despite this budget crisis that affects all areas of our state, the arts community in the Greater Philadelphia area is in an uproar. It’s being said that Governor Rendell plans to eliminate all arts and cultural funding from the budget for fiscal year 2010.

If state arts and cultural funding is eliminated, what'll happen to the Christmas lights in Rittenhouse Square?

If state arts and cultural funding is eliminated, what'll happen to the Christmas lights in Rittenhouse Square?

Casinos are being viewed as a potential generator of tax revenue for Pennsylvania and industry. Mayor Michael Nutter said at the Mayoral debate on October 30, 2007, “The potential negative impact of casinos in Philadelphia I think we’ve not fully come to grips with: traffic, congestion, gaming addiction, as well as crime. It was not the best idea. It’s certainly not the way to try to develop our waterfront.’ (1) Since then, he and many other Philadelphia leaders have changed their minds. It’s incongruous that the potential entertainment factor of casinos could be considered such a saving grace while the arts and culture are ignored.  Creating entertainment opportunities via gambling, and taxing them, is a short-sighted measure. More attention to our state’s arts and culture will enhance our state, and create greater tax revenue, without the significant drain on our city and state resources that casinos would cause.

Proponents of the casinos claim that they will bring jobs. The Sugarhouse casino is being built in a Delaware River vacant lot, so supporters believe that this will enhance our waterfront. There is a theory that casinos in Philadelphia will enhance tourism and attract money that would otherwise go to Atlantic City. Greater arts and cultural opportunities throughout Pennsylvania will do all of these things and much more.

At the risk of boring the pants off of you with statistics and numbers, let’s look at the facts.

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the state’s arts budget is $14 million. Writer Alice Carter broke this down to costing “each taxpayer a nickel per week or $2.60 a year.” (2)

Arts and culture are a $1.99 billion industry in Pennsylvania, says Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania. The arts provide nearly 62,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generate $282.98 million in local and state government revenue.(2)

So, essentially, the state of Pennsylvania puts out $14 million for arts and culture and gets two hundred sixty-eight million, nine hundred and eighty thousand dollars back. That’s quite a return on the investment.

Arts and cultural organizations spread the wealth around. “Nonprofit arts organizations and their audiences generate $166.2 billion dollar in economic activity every year—$63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in event-related spending by their audiences, proving that the arts are an economic driver in their communities that supports jobs, generates government revenue, and is the cornerstone of tourism,” Americans for the Arts reported. (3)

To put it more simply: “The typical attendee to a nonprofit arts event spends $27.79 per person, per event (excluding admission) on transportation, lodging, and other event-related costs. Nonlocal attendees spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($40.19 vs. $19.53). Thirty-nine percent of attendees are nonlocal. Few industries can boast this kind of event-related spending.”(4)

If you needed proof that casinos don’t enhance local business opportunities: The number of independent restaurants in Atlantic City dropped from 48 the year casinos opened to 16 in 1997. (5) Within just four years of the casinos’ arrival, one-third of Atlantic City’s retail businesses had closed. (6) But why should they try to help out other businesses? Why would you want your patrons to eat at a restaurant outside your casino when you can have them eat at a restaurant inside your casino? Play to win, folks.

Research sponsored by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development demonstrates that arts programs in public housing areas increase neighborhood pride, decrease vandalism, provide safe havens, improve inter-generational communications, and increase tolerance between different cultures and ethnicities. (4) and also, public art and a vibrant cultural community beautifies and animates cities, provides employment, attracts residents and tourists, complements adjacent businesses, enhances property values, expands the tax base, attracts well-educated employees, and contributes to a creative and innovative environment.(4)

It’s unbelievably easy to come to the conclusion that the arts are good for our communities. Yet it’s still being ignored. Maybe there’s a stigma that the arts aren’t an honest, hardworking profession; maybe there’s some stigma left over from our earliest Quaker settlers, who believed that the arts are frivolous. Times have changed, and we need to remove the stigma. We need to get out and enjoy the arts and cultural opportunities available to us, and we also need our legislators to take notice.

These are the people whom you should contact. Tell them that having the ability to go to museums, learn about history, see performances, and do something with your life other than shop, work, eat and watch television is important to you. Tell them that an investment in Pennsylvania’s arts and cultural opportunities will come back to the state government many times over.  Or just tell them that you think it’s a good idea. Thank the ones who are working for us. Nobody ever says “thank you” enough.

And thank you for taking the time to read this.

Senate

  • Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester County and Delaware County. He’s the Senate Majority Leader and former mayor of Chester. Voted with the party for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding. http://www.senatorpileggi.com/ I’m sure he loves the Brandywine River Museum too much to see it go to waste.
  • Jake Corman, R-Centre. Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Voted with the party for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding. http://www.jakecorman.com His “News You Can Use” section reminds you to use sunscreen, and that DEER ARE ON THE MOVE.
  • Jay Costa, D-Allegheny. Costa is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and showed his support for the arts as a speaker at the recent Rally for the Arts in Harrisburg. http://www.senatorcosta.com/

House

  • Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia. He’s the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and his office crafted the $29.1 billion budget plan that would retain cultural funding. http://www.pahouse.com/evans/
  • Sam Smith, R-Jefferson. He’s the House Minority Leader, and voted for a budget that would eliminate cultural funding.  http://www.samsmithpahouse.com He says, “Real People Pay Taxes.” We know. Remind him about that $282.98 million in local and state government revenue.

Sources:

(1)    Casino-Free Philadelphia, casinofreephiladelphia.org

(2)    “At $14 million, the arts are a bargain for state’s budget” By Alice T. Carter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Sunday, August 2, 2009

(3)    Arts and Economic Prosperity III, Americans for the Arts, artsusa.org

(4)    Talking Points, Economic Impact, Americans for the Arts, artsusa.org

(5)    Evelyn Nieves, “Our Towns: Taste of Hope at Restaurants Casinos Hurt,” New York Times, March 23, 1997, section 1, p. 39.

(6)    Robert Goodman, The Luck Business: The Devastating Consequences and Broken Promises of America’s Gambling Explosion (New York: Free Press, 1995), p. 23.

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~ by manifenestration on August 7, 2009.

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