Voters approve arts tax, work now beings to develop process, programs


Tacoma voters decidedly supported Proposition 1, a .01 percent increase in the sales tax that will fund arts programs around the city.

The ballot tally at press time showed the first-time measure with a strong lead of 63 percent of the vote.

Campaign Co-Chair David Fischer noted that Tacoma is now the first city to successfully pass arts funding under the new state law, something that took arts boosters 12 years to get enacted. He credited the coalition of labor groups, nonprofits, social service providers, educators and business groups for getting the proposition approved. The proposition sunsets after seven years, although it will almost certainly face a renewal vote.

“Seven years from now we are going to deliver again,” Fischer said.

The tax puts Tacoma’s sales tax at 10.2 percent, on par with Seattle and among the highest in the state. The added tax at cash registers around the city will raise an estimated $5 million for arts funding each year. Proponents of the proposition, Tacoma Creates, gathered signatures to put the tax on the ballot earlier this year after state lawmakers approved options for cities to increase arts funding. Washington ranks 46th in the nation for publicly funded arts programs.

Money from the Tacoma Creates package will foster arts, heritage, science and culture programs in every neighborhood around the city with the money funding enrichment programs at youth centers and senior centers, after-school programs and weekend projects, especially for lower-income families and students.

The Tacoma Creates’ campaign, which spearheaded by the Arts & Culture Coalition of Pierce County, a group of more than two dozen arts, culture and heritage institutions,  focused its efforts on the boost to arts programing the tax package would create around the city as well as how the rise in cultural funding would also help grow the local economy. Arts and culture endeavors in the city, for example, already generate $137 million a year in total economic activity. Those community theater groups, museums and galleries support 3,600 jobs and generate $86 million in household income. Adding $5 million to the pool of arts funding would have added to that tally of local paychecks.

The next step in the effort is to set up an independent arts board to administer the new flow of funding.

“We are going to do some kick-ass things,” Councilmember Ryan Mello who supported the measure when it was unanimously endorsed by the City Council.

The next public step in the effort will come on at 6 p.m. on Jan 23 at 901 Broadway, with a facilitated community conversation about charting the process to administer the arts funding.

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