Looking at a list of everything the Democratic candidates have spoken about and debated on in the months leading up to the gubernatorial primary, voters may have noticed some more refined topics missing from the conversation.
To remedy this, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance released a series of seven questions that three of the four Democratic candidates took time to answer regarding the arts and culture in Pennsylvania. State Treasurer Rob McCord, former Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, and Rep. Allyson Schwartz all responded to the Cultural Alliance’s questions based upon their own knowledge and information provided.
Former DEP Secretary Katie McGinty had not responded by the time the story went to press. Governor Tom Corbett was not sent the questions because he is now unchallenged in the primary.
The seven questions covered a variety of topics all related to Pennsylvania’s arts and culture society. Funding for a few programs was discussed throughout, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) grant program, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), along with general ways to make funding more available for arts and culture. The list of questions was a combined effort from the Cultural Alliance, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council and Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania.
Currently, the PCA program only receives $0.71 per capita in funding, ranking 24th nationally. When asked if they would be willing to increase this to $1.66 per capita, McCord and Schwartz both expressed a desire to do so. Wolf responded that he supported adequate funding.
Responses to the second question ran in a similar vein. McCord and Schwartz were both supported increased funding for the PHMC, while Wolf said he supported reforms to the program.
The first major differences in response came with the third question, when candidates were asked whether they would dedicated funding streams for arts and culture.
Schwartz answered up front that she would support funding streams. McCord proposed dedicating funds for the tourism industry, which he says will directly benefit the arts and culture. Wolf, while hesitant to earmark revenues for a specific program, said he “will work to ensure that appropriate State funding is directed to support this sector.”
Regarding the creation of art as a core academic subject, McCord said he is open to considering the class as such. Schwartz made it known that she supports increased support toward and focus on the arts, while Wolf said he will work with “key stakeholders” to make sure that art and music are better integrated into the K-12 curriculum. Keeping with the scholastic theme, Schwartz and McCord both say they would maintain the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC). On the other hand, Wolf expressed concern that the EITC could be used as a backdoor tax credit.
Pennsylvania’s Film Production Tax Credit was the next topic. When asked about expanding the cap in order to hopefully attract more film business, McCord replied that he would maintain the cap but increase the funds available through the program. Schwartz said she would expand the program. Wolf’s response, while on the vague side, could still give healthy support the Pennsylvania’s arts and culture. Wolf said that he believes tax credits should be reserved for creating middle-class jobs, and as governor, he will examine current tax credits and eliminate those that aren’t promoting “long-term, family sustaining jobs.”
Finally, the last question centered on the creation of cultural districts in Pennsylvania. 12 states have formal state policies to incentivize the growth of these districts. McCord said that he supports cultural districts, while Schwartz claimed to support the districts as well as the policies. Wolf only replied that he would assess the needs and benefits of creating cultural districts in the state.
Overall, the three candidates showed a decent amount of support for Pennsylvania’s arts and culture society. While Schwartz seemed more quick to agree to support, McCord and Wolf were more apt to take a closer look at each of the priorities the Cultural Alliance put forth, evident in some carefully worded answers.