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SEPTEMBER 21, 2006 2:46 PM

So there is this sweet legislation that is, I believe, still in committee in the Michigan House of Reps. It would basically allow areas, like good old Heartside, Easthills or Grandville Ave to form Cultural Redevelopment Districts and benefit from tax breaks for artists and people who participate in commerce related to art (buyers, sellers, renters, retailers, etc…). Here is the lowdown.

From Artserve Michigan:

Recently Representative Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit) introduced an exciting new package of bills to create cultural redevelopment districts in Michigan . Michigan's Cultural Redevelopment Districts will be an innovative new tool to leverage arts and culture for the purposes of economic development

Michigan's Cultural Redevelopment District program will establish a competitive process for Michigan communities to apply for district designation, based on arts- and culture-centered neighborhood redevelopment plans. Districts would be able to take advantage of any combination of incentives based on their particular community's needs.

*Income tax deduction up to $25,000 for working artists who live in the district;

* Income tax and SBT incentives for property taxes incurred for properties rented or used for artist housing, gallery space, or other arts and culture uses;

* A philanthropic state tax credit for individuals and businesses who donate to nonprofit organizations operating within cultural redevelopment districts;

* A special SBT incentive for development projects within cultural redevelopment districts; and

* A sales tax exemption for art work or artists materials sold within a cultural redevelopment district.

You probably aren't interested, but just in case you are dying to read the bill language as presented to the house, I've got links below. The first one is the really meaty one. It sort of outlines the program regulations. The other three are just the necessary amendments to existing tax code.

HB 6176

HB 6177

HB 6178

HB 6179

If I am reading the bill language correctly, this set of initiatives could create up to $1,000,000 in business related tax cuts. Also, I spoke with Rep. Tobocman's office about the fact that many of the tax credits are SBT tax credits, and we are all pretty sure that the SBT is not going to be around much longer. They told me that there has already been legislation passed that will preserve and carry over tax breaks such as this and apply them to whatever business tax comes along to replace the SBT.

I am not sure where this bill is currently. It looks like it still needs to pass the House and then the Senate and then get signed by the Governor. I hope it is not one of those bills that gets stuck in committee. Artserve Michigan recommends sending a letter (they even wrote one for you if you kind of care, but not enough to write two paragraphs) to the reps that will be reviewing it in committee as well as your own state rep and senator. I am thinking that GR's legislators are behind this one already since both Sak (D - Grand Rapids) and Kooiman (R – Grand Rapids) sponsored all four bills.

So yeah, send a letter if you want.

The most important thing for Grand Rapids artists/arts community is to be proactive if this package passes. The cultural redevelopment districts would be chosen by a committee that reviews applications (think Cool Cities and MCACA mini-grants). It is very easy for Grand Rapids to have no representation on statewide committees so I think we should watch this bill and nominate someone who is really committed to developing support for art in Michigan and Grand Rapids.

Also, we have to make sure we continue our recent trend of really hustling for the state dollars. This type of tax incentive is incredible for places like Grand Rapids or Lansing. It can really have an impact. Imagine if you could sell fine art tax free or pay no taxes on those already super expensive art supplies. There are a whole host of possibilities with this bill. If it ever gets passed, it'll be up to us to make the most of it.


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