87th Texas Legislative Session Priorities (2021)
The arts are a cornerstone of the Texas economy and the Texas identity. Texans for the Arts advocates for the development and implementation of statewide public policy and for public funding that supports a strong and vibrant arts and cultural industry across Texas, working in partnership with legislators, arts and business leaders, organizational partners, members, and citizen advocates.
Our focus during the 87th Texas Legislative Session will be twofold: to protect the appropriations and statutory protections secured to date and to work to identify opportunities for additional resources to mitigate the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the arts and culture sector.
Municipal Hotel Occupancy Tax
* Protect use of Municipality Hotel Occupancy Tax (MHOT) to fund the arts
* Encourage municipalities that levy the HOT to maximize the full 15% for the arts
* Oppose legislation expanding the eligible uses of the Municipal Hotel Tax to include general infrastructure items.
The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) was enacted in 1965 and is levied both on a state and municipal level to guests renting a hotel or guest room. This tax was created to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. In 1977, the Legislature added that “up to 15%” of municipal HOT funds may be dedicated to “the encouragement, promotion, improvement, and application of the arts”. This was in acknowledgement that there is a direct correlation between a vibrant and dynamic arts and cultural community and a successful tourism and hotel industry.
Texans for the Arts was a leading proponent of the passage of SB1221 in the 85th Legislative Session. SB1221, the “HOT Transparency Bill”, requires that municipalities report HOT collections and use annually to the Texas Comptroller. This transparency bill provides publicly accessible data and promotes the effective use of the tax.
Since its inception, the local Hotel Tax has been statutorily dedicated to directly promoting local tourism, hotel and convention activity. Bills expanding eligible uses for general infrastructure violates statutory dedication and would deflect local HOT revenue vital to ensuring continued local tourism promotion.
Texas Commission on the Arts Funding
* Protect the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) baseline funding levels from fiscal year 20-21, including the $10 millionin in grant funds for cultural districts.
* Promote the important role the legislature’s investment of public resources in the arts plays in the vitality, economic health, and civic pride of communities all across Texas.
* Support and promote the Texas Commission on the Art’s Cultural & Fine Arts District Program for the strong role it plays in harnessing the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization.
The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), established in 1965, is the state agency responsible for fostering the fine arts throughout the state. Their mission is “to advance our state economically and culturally by investing in a creative Texas. TCA supports a diverse and innovative arts community in Texas, throughout the nation and internationally by providing resources to enhance economic development, arts education, cultural tourism and artist sustainability initiatives.”
Due to the strong support of the Texas Legislature in the 86th Session, the TCA jumped from the 46th lowest funded state agency in the US at 18cents per capita to the 34th lowest funded state at 52cents per capita. (https://nasaa-arts.org/nasaa_research/raise-your-ranking/)
With a mandate to provide equitable access to the arts across Texas, in 2016-2017 the TCA provided some funding to artists/arts organizations in all Texas 31 Senate Districts and over 135 of the 150 Texas House Districts.
In 2005, the TCA was given authority by the Texas legislature to designate cultural districts across the state as “special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization.”
By 2015 there were 26 TCA designated Cultural & Fine Arts Districts across the state and there are now 48 with more applying each year. Municipalities recognize the economic development and community revitalization potential of these districts. The need and demand for grant program support is only growing.
In the 84th, the Legislature approved $10 million for the first time to fund TCA cultural districts. The Governor vetoed $5 million. In the 86th, the Legislature approved a full $10 million which is currently being invested in communities across the state.
IDENTIFY ADDITIONAL FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
COVID-19 Relief Funds
* Support the Texas Commission on the Arts’ request for an allocation of $9,500,000 from the CARES Act, Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and/or the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to provide direct aid to arts organizations financially devasted by the pandemic.
* Support the Texas Commission on the Arts’ repurposing of the $1,500,000 Exceptional Item in the LAR to provide additional aid to arts organizations financially devastated by the pandemic.
* Support securing COVID-19 Relief Funds from the $1.8 billion distributed to communities and counties with fewer than 500,000 residents and the $3.2 billion distributed directly to cities and counties with populations greater than 500,000 residents.
In the face of the pandemic, the arts and culture sector is not only essential to the economic recovery of Texas, but critical to the healing of Texans and rebuilding of our local communities. More than 800,000 Texans are employed in the creative sector generating more than $5.59 billion annually in taxable sales. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had disproportionate and devastating effects on this sector:
- they were among the first businesses mandated to close;
- have lost over 9 million in attendance due to cancelled programming;
- have seen staff layoffs and furloughs equaling 2/3 unemployment in this industry;
- have experienced permanent closures resulting in a negative financial impact of over $100 million for Texas as of August 31, 2020; and
- will be one of the last sectors to reopen.
1 Texas Cultural Trust, “Impact of COVID-19 on the Arts and Culture Sector in Texas,” June 20, 2020.
For past Legislative Agendas, see here.