A key component of Friday’s budget deal has members of Pennsylvania’s performing arts communities rankled.
Over the course of the summer, Governor Ed Rendell insisted lawmakers should close sales tax loopholes to help overcome a 3.2 billion dollar deficit. During the last day of budget negotiations, leaders agreed to remove the exemption for live theatrical and musical performances.
That alarms Jeffrey Gabel, the executive director of the nonprofit Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Adams County. Gabel says the recession has already hurt ticket sales, and an additional tax on top of local levies will make things worse.
"Even as a non-for-profit I already have to collect and impose a ten-percent tax on my tickets at the Majestic Theater. And now I’m gonna have to ask my patrons to spend another six percent in taxes? Why don’t you just put me out of business?"
Mitch Swain, the Pittsburgh Greater Arts Council’s CEO, says cultural groups do everything they can to lower ticket prices right now.
"This could affect schools and educational opportunities, where there are larger numbers of kids maybe coming in on a bus for a performance or educational opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise. So all of the sudden that percentage starts to add up.
We’re hearing all sorts of percentages. We’re hearing other ways this might be implemented. So honestly, it’s hard for me to say how that would work, and what the effect would be."
The governor’s initial budget proposal estimated a performance tax could bring in 100 million dollars this year.