In 2006, Cuyahoga County voters passed the first significant public funding for Cuyahoga County’s Arts & Culture sector. The issue put in place a tax of 1.5 cents per cigarette or 30 cents per pack, for a period of 10 years. The proceeds of this levy have been used to provide grants to Cuyahoga County Arts & Cultural organizations that awarded by Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, a public agency.
On November 3, 2015, voters will have the chance to renew the Arts & Culture levy by voting for Issue 8. If passed, Issue 8 will continue, not increase, the tax on cigarettes.
Our Arts and Culture organizations provide enriching education programs throughout Cuyahoga County. In 2013, organizations receiving funding through the Arts & Culture Levy provided 1.4 million educational experiences for children, and over 18,000 annual field trips. These experiences are critically important for our children; studies show that students who participate in Arts and Culture demonstrate improved math and reading skills, perform higher on standardized tests, stay in school longer, and graduate at higher rates.
Our Arts and Culture sector is a crucial component of Cleveland’s resurgent economy. It employs thousands of people, produces hundreds of millions of dollars in annual direct economic activity, and plays a leading role in attracting millions of tourists and visitors to our region.
In 2013, levy-funded organizations generated nearly $350 million in direct expenditures, including $150 million in salaries that supported thousands of jobs.
Cuyahoga County’s Arts and Culture assets have brought worldwide recognition and economic vitality to our region for more than a century. But by the early 2000s, it was clear that private donations alone couldn’t support this sector, which had produced so much public benefit.
Prior to 2006, Cuyahoga County was one of the largest metro areas in the nation without dedicated public funding for Arts and Culture. Today, we are among one of the nation’s leaders in providing public funding for Arts and Culture, and the dividends this investment has paid have been tremendous.
If Issue 8 passes, it would continue, not increase, the tax of a penny-and-a-half per cigarette that voters approved in 2006. If you smoke, you will continue to pay the same amount you did before. If you don’t smoke, you won’t pay anything.
No, this issue is simply an extension of the original Arts & Culture levy for another 10 years. It will continue the very small tax that consumers have paid on cigarettes since 2007. It will not increase the amount that consumers currently pay.
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture (CAC), a public agency will administer the revenue generated by Issue 8. CAC awards operating and program grants to Arts & Culture organizations through an open and public review process. Revenue cannot be used for any purposes beyond Arts & Culture support.
When voters turned down a property tax for arts and culture in 2004, supporters who recognized the need for stable public funding for the Arts & Culture sector recognized that the State of Ohio would need to identify another method of funding. The Ohio General Assembly identified a cigarette tax as a viable option because: a small, penny-and-a-half tax would provide significant and sufficient revenue of approximately $15-$20 million per year; Cuyahoga County residents had approved similar excise taxes to fund other quality-of-life issues, including the Gateway Complex and Browns Stadium; and a tax on cigarettes would also help reduce smoking, which has clear public health benefits.
Since the original Arts & Culture Levy passed, smoking has decreased and revenue from the levy has declined slightly. This decline, however, was projected when the issue was first passed. The levy continues to provide significant support at the level that was expected and planned for, and is expected to continue to do so at least through the term of the renewal.
At this time, the only excise tax that the State of Ohio permits for the purpose of funding Arts and Culture is the current tax of a penny-and-a-half per cigarette. The State of Ohio has not granted local jurisdictions the authority to ask voters to approve a higher tax on cigarettes or to tax another product. Renewing of the Arts & Culture Levy will give us ten years to consider how Arts and Culture may be funded in the future. Allowing the current tax to expire will leave us with no stable public funding source for Arts and Culture in Cuyahoga County.
This tax is applied uniformly. Every resident and visitor who buys cigarettes in Cuyahoga County has been affected by this tax in the same way for nearly 10 years, paying 1.5¢ in tax per cigarette. While we’re not aware of any data showing that poorer residents pay a disproportionate share, we do know that a flat excise tax like the Arts & Culture Levy provides a greater incentive for low-income residents to stop smoking than it does wealthier residents.
Nearly half of events funded by the Arts & Culture Levy are free to attend, so it would result in forcing the public to pay these opportunities for the first time. An increase in ticket costs would have a direct negative impact on the ability of area families to attend Arts and Culture events and programs. Additionally, eliminating this tax would make smoking more affordable and weaken one of our most effective tools for encouraging people to quit.