Below are some key policy action items for both Texas and the nation. Oftentimes when you meet with an elected official or their staff, you only have a short amount of time to make your case. Focusing one 1-2 issues will help you stay focused and communicate what you're asking of your elected officials. Reference these issue briefs as you prepare for your meeting.
Hotel Occupancy Tax
- Preserve use of Municipality Hotel Occupancy Tax to fund the arts
- Maintain municipality autonomy in allocation of HOT revenue
- Encourage all municipalities to utilize and maximize this source of funding for the arts
The Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) in Texas is charged both on a state and municipal level to guests renting a room or space. This tax was formed expressly with the purpose of promoting tourism and the convention and hotel industry. Because there is a direct economic correlation between a vibrant and dynamic arts and cultural community and a successful tourism and hotel industry, the statute that enabled municipalities to charge a local hotel occupancy tax also allows at least 15% of municipal HOT funds to be dedicated to “the encouragement, promotion, improvement, and application of the arts.”
The determination of tax rates and revenue appropriation is left to local determination, leading to variances in the rate of the local hotel occupancy tax and the amount remitted to the arts. While some cities, like Houston and San Antonio, elect to fund the arts exclusively through HOT revenue, others, such as Dallas, elect to utilize a combination of HOT revenue and general tax revenues for arts and culture funding.
Texas Commission on the Arts
- Increase funding to the TCA after 28% cut in 2017.
The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) is the state governmental 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.” TCA engages the community through arts opportunity and job postings, arts statistics and studies, professional development webinars, and other valuable resources. TCA also serves a major funding source for arts organizations around the state. For example, Austin arts groups received nearly $1 million in funding from TCA in 2016, including federal pass-through money from the National Endowment for the Arts. Unfortunately, in 2017, the state legislature cut appropriations to the TCA by 28%, nearly $2.5 million dollars. This cut important grant funding for many arts organizations across the state.
TCA Cultural Districts
- Restore the vivacity of the TCA Cultural & Fine Arts District program with $10 million in appropriations for the project
- Volunteer in your local cultural district
In 2005, the TCA was given authority to designate cultural districts across the state as “special zones that harness the power of cultural resources to stimulate economic development and community revitalization.” They were created because the TCA recognizes that strong creative sectors foster economic prosperity. Cultural districts can attract artists and creative enterprises that bring both direct economic activity and infuse the community with energy and innovation. Cultural districts also create a hub of appealing economic activity that draws in customers and residents, and increases patronage of nearby businesses as well. They are vital in establishing a community’s cultural identity.
By 2015 there were 26 TCA designated Cultural & Fine Arts Districts across the state. The Legislature approved a $10 million appropriation for the Cultural Districts and the Governor vetoed $5 million. The remaining $5 million was new, first time funding for this vital program. Between 2015 and 2017, __ qualifying arts organizations in cultural districts applied and ___ received funding. The funds were well invested showing a positive impact on cultural tourism across Texas.
In 2017, the TCA Cultural District grant program was eliminated in the state budget. The grant program, lauded for its immense and wide-reaching benefits, now had zero funding and dismissed.
There are now 36 TCA designated Cultural Districts with more applying every year. Municipalities recognize the economic development and community revitalization potential of these districts. The need and demand for grant program support is only growing. It is time to restore the original legislative appropriation of $10 million which will spark even more dynamic projects across the state!
National Endowment for the Arts
- Urge Congress to continue bipartisan support for $155 million for the NEA in the FY 2019 Appropriations Bill to preserve access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts
The National Endowment for the arts (NEA) was established in 1965 “to strengthen the creative capacity of our communities by providing all Americans with diverse opportunities for arts participation.” The NEA fulfills its goals to promote art throughout the country primarily through direct grants. Every dollar that the NEA grants will generate almost $9 of private and other public funding for the arts. More than 15% of the TCA’s current budget comes directly from NEA funding, 40% of which must go to the 50 state arts agencies and six regional arts service organizations. Texas already ranks 49th in total per capita funding for the arts in the state, and a cut to the NEA would decrease arts funding in Texas even further. The NEA is vital to arts organizations around the state that rely on its funding directly, through the TCA, or through the NEA's direct grant programs.
President Donald Trump has proposed twice to reduce funding for the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities/NEH) drastically before phasing it out entirely, throughout the protracted 2018 federal budget funding effort and then again more recently in his proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year. After these destructive budget proposals, Congress responded by raising the NEA’s budget by nearly $3 million to just under $153 million. For 2019, facing the same proposal, we must urge Congress to continue its support of the NEA.