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."
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.