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Surcharge proposed to boost arts funding

A state Assembly bill that calls for a 1% tax on arts and entertainment admissions faces 'an uphill battle.'

April 16, 2005|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

A San Francisco state Assembly member is betting that most Californians would be willing to kick in extra change when they buy a ticket for a movie, a concert, a play or a visit to a museum or theme park -- for the sake of reliable arts funding. He also wants to end what he sees as the national embarrassment California suffers by lingering in last place in state government per-capita spending on the arts.

In a time of aversion to tax increases, Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) admits his bill faces "an uphill battle" as it heads toward a hearing and vote set for Tuesday by the Assembly's Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger also is apt to cast a leery eye on the plan. "The governor and Maria both support the arts, but he doesn't believe new taxes are the way to fund the Arts Council," spokesman Darrell Ng said Friday.

The bill calls for imposing a 1% surcharge on arts and entertainment admissions -- a dime for a $10 movie ticket, about 53 cents for admission to Disneyland or a buck for a $100 seat at the opera or a top arena-rock band. That, Leno says, would raise at least $23 million in annual guaranteed funding for the California Arts Council, the state's main arm for fostering nonprofit arts organizations through annual grants. From a peak of more than $30 million four years ago, the Arts Council has seen its annual funding cut to just more than $3 million.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 20, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Arts funding -- An article in Saturday's Calendar section about a proposed Assembly bill to finance the arts misspelled the first name of Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as Darrell.

"That is shameful and embarrassing here in the arts entertainment capital of the world," Leno said. Hitting up people who attend arts and entertainment events makes sense, Leno said, because arts and entertainment presenters ultimately will benefit in the form of talent fostered by arts Council grants and a public that's more attuned to the arts.

As for the business interests lining up against the bill, including movie theater owners and the California Chamber of Commerce, Leno said they're being shortsighted.

Milton Moritz, president of the organization that represents movie theater owners in California, said Friday that "everybody is complaining about the cost of admission as it is. The average person doesn't care where the money is going."

Even nonprofit arts groups are divided on the bill because they too would have to levy the surcharge, raising prices and leaving smaller groups with a possible bookkeeping headache, said Al Maitland, chief executive of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, an arts advocacy group. "This is an important bill, but I think more groundwork needs to be laid" to unite nonprofit groups and build broad support, Maitland said.

Assemblyman Ed Chavez (D-La Puente), who chairs the arts, entertainment and sports committee, "won't make a recommendation either way" on Leno's bill before Tuesday's vote, said Keri Bailey, Chavez's chief of staff. Although Chavez is an arts supporter, Bailey added, "he is concerned because this is a tax increase," and he believes the priority this year should be the state's deficit.

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