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MailTribune.com
  • Keep Oregon unique

    Cultural Trust Tax Credit will sunset this year; lawmakers should renew it
  • Oregon's one-of-a-kind support system for arts and culture is in danger of disappearing if the Legislature does not act this year.
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  • Oregon's one-of-a-kind support system for arts and culture is in danger of disappearing if the Legislature does not act this year.
    At risk is the Oregon Cultural Trust Tax Credit, which allows state residents to increase the money they already give to their nonprofit organizations supporting the arts, culture and humanities at no cost to themselves.
    Here's how it works: Oregon taxpayers make a donation to one of 1,300 qualifying organizations — a donation they can deduct if they itemize. Then, they make a matching donation to the Oregon Cultural Trust of up to $500 per individual or $1,000 for a couple filing jointly. The gift to the trust qualifies for a tax credit against Oregon income taxes for the full amount.
    This does cost the state money it would otherwise collect in income taxes — $3.5 million in 2011. That is a tiny amount in comparison to the overall state budget of nearly $14 billion, but it means a great deal to cultural organizations.
    Since it was created in 2003, the Oregon Cultural Trust has awarded nearly $13 million in grants to cultural organizations across the state, including more than $450,000 in Jackson County. Southern Oregon organizations benefiting from Cultural Development Grants this year include $35,000 to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to help create its in-house project, "The Unfortunates," $5,000 to the Jacksonville Heritage Society to repair the porch and stairs at the Beekman House, and $10,000 to the Josephine Community Libraries for an outreach campaign to bring people into the library.
    In addition to those direct grants, the trust each year distributes a portion of its funds to each of the state's 36 counties. That money is awarded locally by the Jackson County Cultural Coalition. Recipients have included the Rogue Gallery, the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the county libraries.
    The trust also is building an endowment to generate a stream of income to support arts, culture and the humanities in perpetuity.
    The legislation that created the trust and the tax credit in 2003 stipulated that the tax credit would sunset in 10 years if the Legislature did not vote to renew it. The 10 years are up.
    It should come as no surprise that arts and culture generate far more in economic impact than the amounts awarded in grants. The Cultural Trust Tax Credit helps make that possible, and lawmakers should renew it before they finish their work in Salem this year.
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