Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cutting The Arts Cuts Jobs

There has been a lot of talk this session about creating jobs and the House of Delegates has passed a few bills that are purportedly about creating jobs. Most are focused on corporate tax credits.

However, the government can do a lot to create jobs using very little money. One of those ways is through investing in the arts. The House Budget offered on Sunday proposes to completely eliminate funding for the Virginia's Commission for the Arts. The Virginia Commission for the Arts has a proven track record in economic development and has helped revitalize local economies across the Commonwealth.

In the Mount Vernon Community, the Mount Vernon Community Children's Theatre (MVCCT) has created opportunities for our community's children to participate in theatre productions - including my own children who have participated in MVCCT productions for three years. This organization also stimulates the arts in lower income communities of Mount Vernon as well.

Just to the north in the City of Alexandria, the Torpedo Factory Art Center, the Art League, MetroStage, Signature Theater, Del Ray Artisans, and numerous other arts organizations and programs supported by the Commission over the years have strengthened Alexandria's economy and created a tourism destination, creating jobs and contributing to tax revenues that support core services like education, health care, and public safety. People from all over the Mount Vernon Community benefit from these programs on a daily basis.

We also have a thriving arts community just to the South of us in Lorton. The Workhouse Arts Center helped redevelop the former Lorton Prison site and turn a blighted property into a thriving community resource.

In a year where economic development -- and especially job creation -- has been a paramount concern in the General Assembly, I believe it is economically shortsighted for the House to pass a budget that will completely eliminate funding for an activity that is currently returning $7 in investment by private citizens, businesses, and local governments for every one dollar of state money invested. Moreover, House Republicans have found room in their budget for investments of similar scale in tax incentives for movie stars, despite the fact that the conservative Tax Foundation's recent comprehensive study of these incentives call into question any purported return on that investment.

Elimination of this relatively modest investment in our local programs that actually benefit our communities in favor tax credits for millionaire movie producers is risky and irresponsible.

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