In the late-night deal to end the Pennsylvania state budget stalemate, it seems the arts did not get forgotten.
They got taxed.
Look at this from the Inquirer's coverage:
But sources familiar with details of the agreement confirmed that Rendell successfully pushed to establish a sales tax on "theater, dance, music, and performing arts" tickets - everything from the ballet to Beyoncé - which have been exempted from the levy. The proposal does not tax tickets to movies or sporting events.
Details are few, so we don't want to jump to conclusions.
But, in a state that has spent hundreds of millions (billions?) on sports facilities, Gov. Rendell has chosen to put an additional burden on chamber music, opera and orchestras? At a time when many arts groups are about to face their worst financial year ever, our former Arts and Culture Mayor is going to make life harder for the arts?
Again, we don't know details. How much is the tax - a percentage or flat fee? Does it apply to all ticket prices? Will schools, such as Curtis and Temple and Settlement, have to tax student performances to which they sell tickets? Why performing arts, but, apparently, not museums or other cultural attractions?
And how will arts groups react? Protests? Will the Schuylkill River darken with tea?
One way of looking at this is that Rendell has been a friend to the arts, and now, in true politician form, he figures it's time for the arts to be friend to him.
The other way to look at this is that Rendell, having been the prime cheerleader behind the building of a new Barnes and Kimmel Center, has a special obligation to find additional public ways to fund the operations of these groups. Fund-raising for the Kimmel and the Barnes has soaked up hundreds of millions of dollars - money that arts supporters could use for operations right about now.
A new tax on the arts is the last thing anyone needs - unless Rendell plans to turn around and send the revenue back to the orchestras, museums and theaters of needy Pennsylvania.