Plan to Push Sales Tax for the Arts Abandoned by MPAC

Maybe they're not so crazy after all.

Citing the ongoing state budget crisis, the Metro Phoenix Partnership for the Arts announced this week that it was abandoning its plans to seek a sales-tax increase on the November ballot.

MPAC CEO Myra Millinger announced the group's decision in a letter to arts organizations released Wednesday.

You can read the text of the letter here.

The decision represents an abrupt about-face for the privately funded group, which told New Times just one week ago that it was pressing ahead with plans to put an initiative on the November ballot, asking state voters for a 1/10 of a cent sales tax increase. The increase would have generated $100 million annually for arts groups.

The initiative plan -- coming in the midst of a major recession and serious budget crisis for Arizona -- had generated loud guffaws from some observers. In fact, after our story ran, we heard from some arts groups who said MPAC came by to "sell" the plan at their board meetings, only to generate some serious skepticism.

MPAC had been polling on the issue for months, our sources say, and generated some surprisingly positive numbers.

But our sources suggest that a recent poll provided a reality check, prompting MPAC's decision to halt its campaign.

Here's what Millinger writes in her letter:

With your help, our research also included thorough polling and survey work to track our viability as the election cycle draws nearer.  Up until this point, our feasibility appeared optimistic and encouraging to move forward.  Our research continues to confirm that a dedicated funding source for arts and culture is still favored by 2/3rds of Arizonans.

However, the research also suggests that in the midst of the state budget crisis citizens are confused on what to do as an important first step. That reality combined with our most recent survey work has indicated that success is unlikely in 2010.  As a result we have concluded we need to look toward the future in 2012.

All we can say on that front is good luck to them. Not that we wouldn't like to see increased arts funding in the future -- more that we're worried about whether this state can turn around in just two years. Things are bad out there.

Amy Heisler, MPAC's spokeswoman, said in an email to New Times that the group's efforts will continue.

"The arts and culture community, business leaders and concerned residents have been tremendously supportive of the effort," she said. "We have accomplished a
great deal and built a strong foundation for continuing efforts. We'll continue our work to educate Arizonans on the need for a strong arts and culture sector as a means to a stronger economy."

Stay tuned for another plan in 2012...