Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don’t let Peter Callaghan's sports talk fool you – arts funding fuel tax extension

Peter Callaghan, of the Tacoma News Tribune, has a story on King County's effort to wrestle away the hotel and car rental taxes from the control of the state. Where Callaghan might have the story not quite right is the who is driving the legislation.

Yes, Safeco Field wants a funding source for major capital repair. The current taxes do end with the paying off of the bonds used in the initial build of the facility. Washington State Senator Joe Zarelli said nearly two years ago when the Senate Ways & Means Committee took testimony on Senate Bill 6116 that this is a public facility with a substantial public investment that we do not want to find ourselves in a "Sonics" situation a few years from now.

Simply, they want to keep the admissions and parking taxes at the facility to fund major capital repairs. Any bill that includes King County hotel and car rental taxes getting extended pretty much must have this component. This required component does not mean that the Safeco and Qwest Fields (same boat, different sport) need is driving force. Both facilities are Public Facilities Districts, they have different partnerships with the private companies that use those facilities, but those PFD's could come back to the state or get transferred to the county and put the request to tax the users on the ballot. That is a much tougher route to go, no question about it, but it is not the death of those institutions.

What is in a life or death struggle is the funding for 4Culture in King County. I just do not see how they could lose 75% of their operating funds in 2012 and then come back later to the state or King County and ask for a tax increase across the board on hotels and have a glimmer of hope to have that pass.
4Culture needs a bill this session, and that bill will not get very far without the stadium tax extension.

King County Executive Dow Constantine will ask that a bill be introduced to allow the county to keep some taxes collected only within the county. Proceeds would be used for tourism-related facilities and projects.

“The proposal will honor the original intent behind these taxes,” said Constantine’s external affairs director Sung Yang.

Two of the taxes are now directed toward Safeco – the half-cent sales tax on restaurant and bar tabs and a 2 percent tax on car rentals. Yang said the proposal would be to maintain the car rental tax permanently but extend the food and drink tax only until 2015. (State Restaurant Association head Anthony Anton said the group would not oppose a temporary extension.)

Don’t let art talk fool you – sports teams fuel tax extension | Peter Callaghan - The News Tribune

I did not expect this story written that way now. What I am expecting is for a similar story to be written on February 2nd when the Arts and Heritage folks descend upon Olympia for Arts and Heritage Day
The arts folks will lament that they need the sports stadium folks, and Yakima (they use the Kingdome tax law), to get their bill passed.


Road Trip to Olympia - Join us for Arts & Heritage Day

Clear your calendar on February 2nd. 
It's Arts and Heritage Day in Olympia and we need all advocates to attend! The Washington State Arts Alliance and the Washington Museum Association are joining forces to coordinate this year's event. 

Arts and Heritage Day provides an opportunity for you to meet your legislators, in person, so you can advocate4culture and tell them what is most important to you. 

If you can attend, please visit this page and contact your team captain (organized by where you live). Your savvy captain will get you signed up and will tell you when meetings are scheduled with your legislators. There will be other advocates attending these meetings with you - so you won't feel alone. If you haven't been before, you'll see that there are many advocates that will guide you along the way. Arts and Heritage Day is a great way to see that you do have a voice in Washington State. Come join us! 

If you need a ride to Olympia, or just need some encouragement to attend, send us an email and we'll help get you there.  


I suggest that Peter Callighan join them and write that story, too.

Buried in the back page of the About 4Culture web site is their compelling story.
Funding for 4Culture will end in 2012 unless citizens, Representatives and Senators work to change state legislation this year.


4Culture invests $4.5M every year in artists & arts/heritage organizations and activities in King County. This is the single largest source of contributed revenue available in our community on a regular basis for artists, arts organizations, heritage organizations and heritage/preservation projects.

In 2009 alone, 4Culture provided financial support to:

168 individual artists & small arts groups
211 arts organizations
37 heritage organizations
87 cultural facilities
24 landmarks (preservation $$)
40 individual specialists for heritage projects and education curricula
17 heritage collections projects

Additionally, lodging tax funds supported 4Culture programs that gave
18+ KC school districts support for integrated arts curriculum training to principal-led teacher teams
400+ performing and visual artists presentation opportunities through 4Culture Site Specific
30+ visual artists exhibition opportunities in Gallery4Culture and the electronic gallery e4c
100+ performing artists promotional support through the 4Culture Touring Arts Roster
100+ heritage sites promotional support through Destination Heritage tourism brochures

4Culture is also home to King County’s award-winning Public Art Program.

These activities and more make our region an attractive tourist destination. They enhance our quality of life, define our sense of place and serve as a powerful economic driver for our local communities. The small investment of lodging tax for culture ripples throughout the local community, making art and history programs accessible; keeping neighborhoods active, safe and walkable; and employing thousands of residents throughout our region.


In 1990, the state legislature passed a law allowing a portion of KC lodging taxes to be used for arts and culture. 4Culture has stewarded these funds for 20 years. When the law was originally crafted, it had an expiration date of 2012 – and required that a portion of the tax be set aside for an endowment that would sustain the programs of 4Culture after 2012. Unfortunately, due to changing economic trends, there is not enough in the endowment account to maintain the level of support currently provided by 4Culture. If 4Culture began to operate solely off the endowment, the funding available for the cultural field would be cut by 75%.

Therefore, if new legislation is not passed to augment the endowment and designate future uses of lodging taxes for culture after 2012, 4Culture will need to start winding down programs and services. This cut of resources will obviously be devastating to many small non-profit organizations, artists and community-run programs in every corner of King County, and to the people employed in this sector.

The page ends with the likely description of the bill.

The arts and heritage funding we are working for is just a small percentage of the available visitor taxes. Traditionally, lodging taxes have also paid for the construction of stadiums, and support of the convention center. The legislature’s obligation is to disperse these taxes among a variety of causes that can steward tourism, while potentially addressing some of our regional economic and social services issues. Other issues that may be in a bill with 4Culture include: low-income housing, heath and human services programs, regional centers publically owned facilities, and support for cultural districts (like the International District). Our opportunity is to position arts and culture at the center of these various goals. Culture is part of the solution to regional problems.

What that reads like is last legislative sesson's HB 2912. That bill was sandbagged and killed by Washington State Senator Rodney Tom's dozen floor amendments.
Let's see if Tom can control himself this year.

What may help the bill this time around is that the University of Washington will not be grasping at those funds for Husky Stadium. The university will remodel that facility on their own through donations and leveraging future revenues that will increase as a result of the major remodel.