Missouri Senators Favor Taxing Out-Of-State Entertainers To Bring In Millions For Arts

Feb 14, 2018

In February, the Missouri Arts Council recognized Ragtag Film Society in Columbia as arts organization of the year. The media art group produces events such as the annual True/False documentary Film Fest.
Credit courtesy Ragtag Film Society

A committee of budget-controlling Missouri Senators recommends continuing to fund the arts at current levels through the ongoing use of a tax on out-of-state performers. 

On Tuesday, the Ways and Means committee advanced Senate Bill 773 by a 6 to 1 vote. This legislation extends a 2 percent tax on non-resident professional athletes and entertainers for another 10 years. 

In fiscal year 2017, the tax collected $36,881,364.

A portion of these funds are earmarked for the Missouri Arts Council and its four cultural partners: Missouri Humanities Council, Public Broadcasting, Library Networking Fund, and Historic Preservation. The pool of money provides 87 percent of the Arts Council's budget.

"We depend on the state monies to make sure that we have funding in every part of the state," says Michael Donovan, the Arts Council's executive director. "Right now, we're funding the arts in 95 percent of the state's House districts and 100 percent of the Senate districts." 

The tax, he says, "gives some stability and sense of security to our funding source." 

In fiscal year 2017, the Arts Council distributed $4.8 million in grants to more than 550 organizations across Missouri. The state agency also receives funding (about 13 percent of its budget) from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

California was the first state to implement a tax on non-resident athletes and entertainers in 1991; other states followed suit and Missouri passed its tax in 1994.

The tax is scheduled to sunset in 2020, and SB 773 calls for continuing it through 2030.

"It's important that it pass this year," says Donovan, "because there are going to be leadership changes and a lot of legislator changes over the next couple of years, so we want to make sure that the arts weren't forgotten at this critical time."

The legislation is expected to go to the floor in the next few weeks. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.