Arts supporters make their case for spending sales tax moneyby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Dozens of arts supporters testified at a Capitol hearing Monday night on how to spend new sales tax money for the arts.
The marathon session lasted until early this morning, as speakers suggested a huge number of projects for the approximately $47 million available for arts funding.
Representatives of several large arts groups testified in favor of giving half the money to the state arts board to distribute.
Vickie Benson of the McKnight Foundation also dismissed Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposal to zero out the Arts Board's funding and make the board a private non-profit.
Benson said local foundations could not replace state funding, even when the economy was good.
"Turning the arts board into a private non-profit means instead of helping the arts the state agency would be turned into a competitor for the artists and organizations its was designed to serve," Benson said. "The field is unanimously opposed to this."
Michael Garcia, the President and CEO of the Duluth Children's Museum, made a pitch for his own institution, but also encouraged lawmakers against taking a narrow view.
"While this bill cannot be everything to everyone, it is important that the broadest definition can be applied to ensure the wide interests of Minnesotans are supported by this new revenue stream," Garcia said.
The House Cultural and Outdoors Resources Finance Committee is charged with coming up with a way to divide the millions of dollars from the sales tax approved by votes in November. The tax will also fund conservation, clean water and parks and trails.