Testimony of Jill Paulsen
Executive Director, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture
Ohio Senate General Government Committee
May 4, 2021
Chairman Shaffer, Vice Chair Wilson, Ranking Member Craig, and Members of the Senate General Government Committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
My name is Jill Paulsen. I am the Executive Director Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, the independent political subdivision entrusted with providing public funding to Cuyahoga County-based arts and culture organizations.
In 2006, the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation which authorized the voters of Cuyahoga County to approve a tax on cigarettes, with the proceeds going toward public funding for arts and cultural institutions in Cuyahoga County. Since that language was enacted, county voters have overwhelmingly approved this effort, most recently with over 75% of the vote.
Despite this support, the revenue collected has diminished by nearly 50% since the issue was originally passed. This is because this revenue is limited to 30 cents per pack of cigarettes sold in Cuyahoga County, regardless of the price.
We are asking for your support to change this structure. Specifically, we have drafted an amendment to HB 110 that will allow a limited number of counties to pursue similar language should they choose.
The changes will enhance and broaden this program, which has proven so valuable to our community.
- First, our language will adjust the methodology of this tax from a per unit basis to a percentage basis. This shift will significantly mitigate the decline in revenue by aligning our receipts to the price of cigarettes rather than the volume of cigarettes.
- Second, we are asking you to pass language that will allow voters to dedicate a portion of all tobacco revenue, not just cigarettes, toward this public benefit.
Ohio’s arts and cultural economy drives over $40 billion annually toward our overall economy, employing hundreds of thousands of Ohioans. Unfortunately, this pandemic has devastated the ability of hundreds of arts businesses across the state to keep their doors open. This has resulted in millions in lost revenue and thousands of layoffs.
This proposal is not a full solution to our current challenges. However, the ability to know that this is a tool in our collective toolbox will go a very long way toward overcoming the challenges that these institutions face every day.
I know that you already know this, but I think it is critical to drive home this point. WE ARE NOT ASKING FOR THE CREATION OF A NEW PROGRAM AND WE ARE NOT ASKING YOU TO RAISE TAXES.
Rather, we are asking that you give voters the ability to decide for themselves if this approach is an investment worth undertaking. Nothing in this effort implements these proposals. It is local control at its finest.
Mr. Chairman and Members of the committee, I thank you for your time today. We are hopeful that you agree with our position that supporting local arts and cultural institutions is a critical piece of Ohio’s economic development strategy. I am happy to answer any questions that you may have.