Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to boost funding for tourism, the arts and historic preservation was advanced by an Assembly panel this week.
Vainieri Huttle noted that in 2012, New Jersey spent $16 million on arts education, development, and promotion. That funding generated a $325 million economic impact statewide, including the creation of 17,000 jobs.
"As an ex officio member of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, I know firsthand that funding the arts is an investment in our local economies and the state," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We can increase that economic benefit by honoring the commitment New Jersey made to fund the arts in 2003 when the Hotel & Motel Occupancy Fee was established."
The bill (A-4286) revises certain provisions in current law known as the "poison pill" to increase the amount of state revenue required to be annually appropriated to fund certain cultural, historical, and tourism-related programs and activities.
Under current law, New Jersey imposes a hotel and motel occupancy fee that applies to the rent for certain hotel occupancies in the state. The law requires the state to annually allocate a minimum amount of revenue collected from this fee to fund cultural project grants through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, New Jersey Historical Commission grants, tourism advertising and promotion and the New Jersey Cultural Trust.
When the state fails to meet this minimum appropriation, the so-called "poison pill" provision kicks in and hotels and motels are no longer required to collect the tax. Due to the recession, funding appropriations for arts and cultural projects has been stagnant since 2008.
With New Jersey rebounding from the recession and revenues on the uptick, Vainieri Huttle's legislation would phase-in a higher dedication of funding to the arts, tourism, and historical and cultural preservation without increasing the tax.
"This is a win-win for our state," added Vainieri Huttle. "By investing in preserving our deep, rich history and promoting our cultural assets, we can also boost our economy and improve our overall economic outlook."
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Tourism and the Arts Committee.