Oregon's 10-year-old Cultural Tax Credit will sunset this year unless our legislators renew it. It would be a shame for this pioneering Oregon policy to expire. Since 2003, the Oregon Cultural Trust has awarded $12.8 million in grants statewide, with more than $452,000 awarded to Jackson County alone. The Cultural Trust and its tax-credit program is unique in this nation and, like Oregon's bottle bill and beach bill, it has made a huge impact on Oregon's quality of life.
Supporting the Cultural Tax Credit is good economic policy. Arts, heritage and the humanities in Oregon directly and indirectly generate $1.2 billion in economic output and pay $466 million in salaries to more than 15,000 people (http://oregonculture.org/wpcontent/uploads/).
To many, arts and culture seem "nice" but not necessary. But Jackson County's economic strength would be bleak without our thriving cultural institutions. Indeed, not everyone appreciates the enormous economic benefit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt Festivals and other cultural attractions bring to our county. Visitors to our area spend many thousands of dollars in hotels, campgrounds, restaurants and local shops supporting jobs from entry-level to sophisticated management. Cultural tourism in Jackson County enlivens every aspect of our community economy, our community pride, our community identity.
One significant local beneficiary of the Cultural Trust is the Jackson County Cultural Coalition, a grant-making group made up of local citizens providing smaller grants to local organizations. Each year the Trust allocates a certain percentage of its funds to each of Oregon's 36 counties. Since 2003, the Jackson County Cultural Coalition has provided more than $143,000 to a wide variety of local organizations, including the Rogue Gallery, Southern Oregon Historical Society, Jackson County libraries, the Film Society, Rogue Valley Chorale and many others, an example of local control that directly supports local arts and culture.
Supporting the Cultural Tax Credit is good tax policy. The $57 million in taxes and fees generated by art and culture is 15 times the $3.5 million the Cultural Tax Credit cost in tax expenditures in 2011. One of the unique attributes of the Cultural Tax Credit is that our legislators can feel comfortable knowing a private citizen has already made a cultural donation equal to the tax credit before any of our tax money is spent.
This is one of the few times Oregon gets a matching gift from the people before the state makes a tax expenditure. Oregon's Cultural Tax Credit is the only one in the country. It's a good use of the tax law that makes sense and it works.
I urge you to contact State Sens. Alan Bates and Herman Baertschiger, along with State Reps. Sal Esquivel, Dennis Richardson, Mike McLane and Peter Buckley, to support the Cultural Trust Tax Credit. It's good business, good economy and good stewardship.
Kathleen Davis of Medford is a former member of the Oregon Arts Commission and the Oregon Humanities board of directors. Before she retired, she was director of development for the Southern Oregon office of the Oregon Community Foundation.