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License plate fee would add $2 million to arts funding

January 13, 2006|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

With arts-loving motorists paying instead of taxpayers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed pumping nearly $2 million more next year into the budgetary tank of the California Arts Council.

Since the state's budget crunch hit in fiscal 2003-04, California has ranked last in the nation in per capita funding for its arts agency.

Under the plan Schwarzenegger unveiled this week, arts council funding would jump from the current $3.3 million to $5.1 million in fiscal 2006-07.

The entire 56% jump for the agency would come from voluntary extra fees that arts supporters pay for specially designed arts license plates.

In the national per capita arts spending derby, California would go from 9 cents to 14 cents, but according to figures from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, that would still leave it in last place, barring drastic cuts in other states. Colorado's arts agency budget ranks 49th at 25 cents per capita.

The final state budget is subject to the annual wrangling that goes on between the governor and Legislature, but the increase from arts license plate fees is secured by a state law that went into effect a year ago, boosting fees by between $20 and $30, all but guaranteeing the increase.

New arts plates now cost $50 for regular plates ($40 for renewals) and $90 for vanity plates ($70 for renewals); the arts council's cut is $34.63 for new plates, $40 for renewals.

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