We Were Floored, Now It’s Been Tabled

Assembly Member Mark Leno yanked AB 655 which proposed a 1% surcharge on admissions to entertainment venues as an alternate source of funding for the California Arts Commission. Plow your way through the routine howling this produced in movie theatre and amusement park owners to find the strange silence from the arts community on this one. The bill included taxing nonprofits themselves: 1% of the door, tithed to the CAC on the off-chance we might get it back through our participation in a re-capitalized CAC, which would be, thanks to us in small measure, and cineplexes and six flags in larger measure, back in the bidness of cultural funding.

One can always count on the religious right for modest proposals.

Would admissions to pony rides be subject to the surcharge?

Because those lil tykes aren’t pulling their weight.

The other bill to diversify funding for the California Arts Council uses a tax… no, an admission surcharge upon each patron of an entertainment venue. CAC gets the dough and gets back to the bidness of arts granting.

Just to be clear: in this bill race tracks and sporting events do not qualify as entertainment.

And we knew this: performances for the benefit of a nonprofit do not qualify as entertainment.

It’s an ingenious plan, she said, grasping for the exempted revenue as it fell into an inky void while scanning yet another headline about how concert promotions anticipate another set of sad, sad, so sad and depressive summer profits not due to Morrisey (I’m sick.. and sad!) comebacks.

The summary from the CAC’s don’t-be-skeered newsletter:

Assembly Bill 655 (Leno)

This bill by Assemblyman Mark Leno will levy a one percent fee on admissions at all entertainment venues in the state, both private and non-profit. This one percent bill is estimated to generate upwards of $30 million to the Arts Council for distribution in grants, according to preliminary analysis from the Board of Equalization. This proposed revenue stream would stabilize arts funding and remove a great deal of pressure from the competition for General Fund dollars from all government sources that depend on it for their programs and operations.

The Leno bill, AB 655 will be heard on Tuesday in the Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media at 9 a.m. on April 19th.

The State Board of Equalization (you know… the TAX PEOPLE) analyzed the bill and raised interesting questions (like the ones I confront every day: is a professional wrestling event a sporting event?).

Mark Leno can be contacted here or via fax: (916) 319-2113.

Why Didn’t We Whine About This Earlier?

Amy Kweskin sent this in, from the don’t-quit newsletter of the California Arts Council:

Senate Bill 691 (Speier)
Did you know that your personalized Arts License Plate purchase does not fully go to the California Arts Council, but results in a contribution to the Environmental License Plate (ELP) Fund as well?

For the past ten years purchasers of the Arts Plate have been contributing $40 of the $70 purchase price and $25 of the $40 renewal fee to the ELP Fund, with the remaining coming to the CAC to fund arts programs for children.

In the past, the revenue from the Arts License Plate was a small part of the overall CAC budget. Now, as a result of the greatly reduced Arts Council budget, the role of Arts License Plate fees to the CAC budget has became of greater importance. The bill SB 691 by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier would exempt the Arts Plate from contributing to the ELP Fund, and instead have the full amount go towards arts funding and distributed by the California Arts Council.

The Arts Plate is the most popular plate in the state. Seven million dollars have been generated for the arts since 1994. DMV reports $2.5 million have been contributed to the ELP Fund in the same period.

Senator Speier’s new legislation aims at bringing fairness to the issue so that people who buy the Arts Plate can be assured that all the funds will be used to support local arts programs and arts education activities.

This bill will be heard initially in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday, April 19 at 1:30 p.m. Read the Senator’s Fact Sheet on SB 691 at http://www.cac.ca.gov/proposal/SB691factsheet2.rtf