The Legislature doesn't exactly have a solid tradition of supporting arts and entertainment, except for recent years' initiatives to bring tax credits for film and television, but the current fiscal picture is brighter than ever. With a record $3 billion surplus on the books from recovery spending and high oil prices, arts and culture boosters are hopeful their time has come.
Landrieu's legislative package consists of three parts that are expected to pass, and possibly even be expanded. It includes a program with local oversight to create "cultural product districts" and rehabilitate historic structures; tax credits for a wide variety of artists to live and work in Louisiana; and incentives to encourage food research and culinary arts. In several ways, the cultural economy package mirrors what many in Lafayette have been striving for over the past decade or so, especially downtown.
The cultural product district is outlined in House Bill 359 by Rep. Taylor Townsend, a Democrat from Natchitoches who is sponsoring the entire package. If ultimately passed by the Legislature, local governments could designate such districts starting next year for the "purpose of revitalizing a community by creating a hub of cultural activity, including affordable artist housing and work space." If eligible businesses are approved by the state Board of Commerce and Industry, they could receive state and local sales and use tax exemptions for works of art sold in the district. "This will allow local interests to expand beyond the typical downtown development district," says Angelle Davis, secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism.
The legislation also expands the amount of tax credits available for rehabilitating historic structures within such a district. Presently, the state has set aside roughly $1 million in credits to be used annually on historic buildings, but Townsend's bill would bump it up to $10 million, meaning as many as 400 structures could receive assistance each year, compared to only 40 currently. Davis says many areas of the state are planning to focus the credits on rundown areas, while others are building upon previous successes. "I know that Lafayette has talked about using these incentives to address blighted areas," she adds.
The second measure in the cultural economy package, House Bill 495, would create income tax exclusions for artists' work in varying amounts. The first $50,000 would be excluded entirely, while the next $50,000 would receive a 50 percent break. The following $400,000 would be eligible for 25 percent, and works exceeding $500,000 would get a 10 percent exclusion. And it's a wide net ' "artistic work" is defined as both contemporary and traditional in disciplines such as visual arts, craft, music, theater, dance, fashion design, literature and media.
Todd Mouton, director of the Louisiana Crossroads performance series and executive director of Louisiana Folk Roots, testified at the Capitol in favor of the legislation. He says the artist income exclusion would allow the state to not only sustain many of its artisans at home, but it would also put Louisiana in a position to cultivate new talent to continue competing on a global scale. "This is part of a great package, and it's the right step to take with minimal investment to show the state's artists we are serious about their contributions," says Mouton, who is also a member of the Acadiana Arts Council.
The final piece of the package is probably the most delicious, as it addresses state income tax credits for culinary arts and food-science infrastructure projects. Under House Bill 568, if the total base investment is greater than $15,000 but less than $150,000, each investor would receive a tax credit of 10 percent. If it's greater than $150,000 and less than $1 million, the credit would be 15 percent. For anything topping $1 million, the credit would jump to 20 percent.
Chef John Folse, who has been a Louisiana culinary mainstay for more than 25 years on radio and TV, called the incentive a "no-brainer," since part of the state's tourism appeal is directly related to food. In recent years he has built up his $50 million food empire, bolstered largely by a massive food processing plant in Donaldsonville that employs 200 people creating cheeses, meats and other manufactured eats. His company produces everything from chili for Disney World to a brown-sugar glaze for Friday's restaurants.
Next year he's planning an $8 million expansion and upwards to 100 new hires, and says he would have used the incentives if they were available when he started planning some time ago. "Had tax credits been available to me, you can imagine where we would have been," Folse says. "I would have reinvested the money and designed a $9 million expansion and hired more Louisiana people."
Landrieu says it's easy to generate excitement over food and entertainment, but many people shy away from dumping millions into growing the sectors, mainly because they're nontraditional markets for the state. He's trying to change that, and the Legislature appears to be falling in line. "You have to do the same thing for the cultural economy, from a tax policy perspective, as we do for other industries to help them grow," Landrieu says. "We can longer treat them differently."
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 06, 2013
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.
Hushed plans for a commercial development along the Louisiana Avenue portion of the Holy Rosary campus put the future of longtime tenant EarthShare Gardens in jeopardy.
If a recent advertisement in The Daily Advertiser is any indication, speculation the local daily will be implementing the “Butterfly Project” could be more of a reality than the Gannett-owned paper’s top execs are willing to admit.
Mettenberger injured his left knee while unloading a 32-yard completion in the fourth quarter of No. 14 LSU's 31-27 victory over Arkansas last Friday, and LSU coach Les Miles confirmed the severity of the injury on Wednesday.
An ordinance to phase out a 2 percent rebate to Lafayette merchants for collecting and remitting on time sales taxes cleared the City-Parish Council by a 6-3 vote.
Louisianans are the fourth most likely to use profanity yet also the fourth most likely to be courteous. So, please, just kiss my a** ... if it’s not too much trouble.
The state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority voted Tuesday to authorize two lawsuits against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
A long night on the field in Seattle got even worse off of it, and now the Saints are operating on a compressed time-frame as they brace for surging Carolina with first place in the NFC South at stake.
Public school letter grades, teacher evaluations and student promotion won't be affected by Louisiana's shift to more rigorous educational standards for two years, the state's top school board decided Tuesday.
Vitter told The Associated Press that he is sending an email to supporters Wednesday and is in discussions with his family about the possibility.
The Ragin' Cajuns go for New Orleans Bowl three-peat, this time against the Tulane Green Wave, which is making its first postseason appearance since the Hawaii Bowl in 2002.
Louisiana has joined four other states in filing a so-called “friend of the court” brief in support of Mississippi’s lawsuit against the federal government over new flood insurance rates set to go into effect.
Kerry Wayne Bertrand was charged Monday for the alleged killing of his stepdaughter, Skylar Lee Credeur, a UL Lafayette chemistry major found dead in the bathtub of her family home in August.
Louisiana's state school board is considering a two-year delay for some consequences tied to the phase-in of more rigorous educational standards, called Common Core, at public schools.
The most anticipated game in the NFC this season was a laugher.
The attorneys for Busted in Acadiana administrator Chris Hebert got an extra 2.5 months Monday to prepare for their client’s felony trial, marking the third time the case has been delayed this year.
In an effort to ease tensions, Lafayette Parish Superintendent of Schools Dr. Pat Cooper is calling for board approval of two day-long workshops: one to address lingering questions caused by Act 1 of the 2012 Legislature, and a session focused on mending the tattered relationship between the board and administration.
Lafayette has so much going for it, and so much yet to do.