Well Now You've Done It

Sounds like the House has just approved the state's $855 million budget "rebalancing" proposal, complete with those stolen funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust. An excellent new distillation and analysis has been posted at Art Scatter.

Also Jeff Mapes just posted a short but amazing piece at Oregonlive, about how Republicans are lining up with the arts community in protest. Strange bedfellows indeed. Follow the link the see the GOP's tongue-in-cheek new license plate suggestion this fine First Thursday.

Now we wait for someone, anyone, to tell us what to do next. My colleague Helen suggests storming the downtown DMV, license plates in hand, demanding a refund. But as I mentioned the other day, there may be enough legislators nervous about the imminent uprising to restructure the theft into a loan, repayable to the Trust with interest in a few years time. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, the Creative Advocacy Network is set to launch this afternoon with an effort to drive 100 or more people to the City of Portland's Council Chambers on March 12 for the annual State of Arts presentation. This will be the first step in showing solidarity among the arts community -- that we give a damn -- to help ensure that local arts funding doesn't suffer the same fate as state arts funding has.

I dig the Creative Advocacy Network's new mantra, courtesy of the branding firm North (who also designed the brand for The Right Brain Initiative).


MightyToyCannon said...

CJ, thanks for keeping us up to date on Salem shenanigans. Will we have any energy left to take on the $3 billion fight that's coming and which will threaten to undermine the arts even more. Plus, isn't the Cultural Trust legislation coming up for renewal soon? (The tax credit is what's known as a "tax expenditure," which has always had a sunset date). Oy ... so tired of it.

Here's a recommendation for the the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Cultural Advocacy Coalition (state), the new Cultural Advocacy Network (local): Feed regular updates to bloggers like Culture Shock and Art Scatter--keep us up-to-date on what's happening in Salem or in other chambers, rather than waiting for us to dig the information up. Keep us in the loop and we'll help carry some of the weight of getting the word out. All we ask is that you don't just give us the spin.

Unknown said...

A hearty second to MTC's suggestion on keeping us in the loop.

I, too, found Jeff Mapes' story fascinating, but it didn't surprise me a whole lot. From the beginning the Trust seemed to me a highly creative Republican-style response to the problem of arts funding. It cut down on the need to spend money out of the general fund on arts programs -- in other words, tax money -- and instead created a way for Oregonians who specifically WANTED to support the arts to do so by basically paying for it themselves. That's the whole concept of the Trust. Probably the most brilliant part was the full tax credit for Trust donations to match donations to any other nonprofit arts group in the state. That IS tax money, but in the less expensive form of a credit, not as a grant. And I think we need to be very careful that that doesn't get stripped away in this next go-round. I don't know whether the Democrats who came up with this plan fully realize the harm they've done to the Trust. I've talked to people who think they've effectively killed it off already. I'm not sure that's true, but I think it could easily become true if people don't put up a fight.

MightyToyCannon said...

What appears to have been missing in this round of legislation is the kind of backroom champion with the political chops to yank the Trust out of the fire at the last second. Then-Representative Ben Westlund was able to do that when the Trust was created, and when it was subsequently threatened (much to the chagrin of detractors, and I recall a Steve Duin column that questioned Rep. Westlund's motives at the time). The Trust needs to be someone's "pet project" that will be nurtured and protected when the going gets tough--and that champ needs to have some clout. We'll see if that happens in the next round.

The other thing that made the Cultural Trust palatable to legislators when it was created is that a tax credit is treated as a "tax expenditure" rather than a budgeted, line-item expense. Foregone revenue is the same as spending money, but it's a little more abstract and less visible. Another "tax expenditure" that probably won't ever be touched by the pols is the tax credit for voluntary political contributions. That $50 tax credit is estimated to cost Oregon about $15 million per biennium--much more than the Cultural Trust. Do you suppose they'll be looking at that cost when making sacrifices to offset a $3 billion estimated shortfall?