Friday, April 30, 2010

Percent tax option for the arts fails to beat the clock

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 10:07 PM

click to enlarge oops! out of time. go home, everyone.
  • oops! out of time. go home, everyone.

Atlanta artists and supporters have been riding high from last week’s legislative triumph. Having successfully executed a last minute effort to save the Georgia Council for the Arts from the budgetary chopping block, energy has been booming when it comes to other areas of arts activism. Unfortunately, Team Art suffered a loss last night in the final minutes of the state’s 2010 legislative session.

The heated push was for House Bill 335, formerly HB1049. The bill, backed by the Metro Atlanta Arts and Culture Coalition (MAACC), would have changed the local option sales tax by allowing counties to pass a fraction of a penny sales tax to go toward supporting arts and cultural organizations, economic development incentives and quality-of-life initiatives. The tactic would have been new to Georgia, but has been introduced to great success in a number of states.

While the GCA issue garnered massive support and media attention, supporters of the percent tax option feel that a measure like this could really be the saving grace of arts funding in Georgia.

“I am certainly glad to see that the GCA has apparently escaped the ax of the GA legislature, but the truth be known, this small and underfunded organization has a whole lot less impact than, say, the MAACC sales tax initiative would have for arts organizations and artists,” says Metropolitan Public Art Coalition Board Co-Chair David Hamilton.

The local control, statewide impact, appropriations flexibility and the potential millions of dollars in support gave HB335 the potential to bolster arts, culture and communities unlike any other legislative effort.

With less than a day left on the legislative clock, supporters of HB335 started piping up with a barrage of phone calls and emails to state representatives. But when it came down to it, it was really an issue of timing; a bill is technically required to sit on House Representatives’ desks for at least one hour before going to a vote. HB335 arrived only minutes before midnight, which marked the end of Georgia’s 2010 legislative session.

HB335 hit the desks, House leadership quickly called Sine Die, and everyone went home.

Arts supporters are encouraged, however, by the bill’s strength in passage through the state Senate. Eyes are already turned ahead to putting even more support behind the bill for next year.

Perhaps the success of the campaign to save the Georgia Council for the Arts, followed immediately by the lack of time to push through HB335 is a sign that, despite all the energy the arts community has put forth this legislative session, you can’t be several places at once. This year’s session seems to have borne a heightened level of political interest from artists – and a renewed recognition that what arts and cultural organizations in Georgia really need are more lawmakers watching out for arts interests from inside the Capitol.

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