To tax or not to tax? That is the question.
To make up for some significant budgetary shortfalls, New York State Governor David Paterson is apparently exploring every conceivable avenue for bolstering the state's budget, and that includes looking to the thoroughfare known as Broadway. The governor has proposed a 4% sales tax on all theatre tickets, regardless of whether they're sold on the Great White Way or in those upstate locales crucial to his reelection bid.
If enacted, another 4% tax would automatically be levied by New York City, along with an additional .375% MTA tax.
International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) President Matthew Loeb has said that, if enacted, the taxes would result in the closing of shows on Broadway and beyond. New York's Daily News quotes him:
A show doesn't downsize ... It's dead. That means the lights go off, the workers go home, no more tickets get sold -- or taxed -- and unemployment claims get filed.
Meaning, theoretically, the loss of more tax dollars from individuals, who would no longer be paying into the system via income taxes, as well as a drain on unemployment funds.
In the same story, Jujamcyn Theaters President Rocco Landesman cites the enormous boost to the New York economy Broadway provides beyond the Theatre District, equating $2 billion in theatre spending to $3 billion in added spending for the city's hotels, restaurants, shopping, tourist attractions and so on:
The message is "Don't kill the golden goose." (Unlike sports organizations), we don't get a (state) subsidy. We pay our own way.... People do not come into New York to see the Yankees and Mets. They come to see theatre."
Taking a look at a full-price ticket for a Wednesday matinee performance of the new The Story Of My Life, the top ticket (as opposed to "premium seating") is currently priced at a lofty $110.00. Add another $7.00 for a "service fee" and another $2.50 for a "handling charge per order" and we're already up to $119.50 (somewhere in there, the price already includes a $1.50 "facility fee").
If that ticket is to be mailed, it will cost an additional $1.50 (even though the cost of a first-class stamp remains a relative bargain at $.42). So the total is up to $121.00.
Toss another $9.21 on top of that for the proposed taxes, and the cost would come in at just over $130.00. UGH!
If what's good for the goose is truly good for the gander, then perhaps it's time Rocco & Friends took a long hard look at that very same goose that laid the golden egg. Maybe they could see it in their power to do one of two things:
(A) Reduce ticket prices -- Let's face it, the top ticket prices on Broadway have become completely out of whack, making live theatre a very expensive, if not completely unaffordable, pasttime. After all, many Americans are seeing no wage increases or, in fact, actual wage reductions in 2009 ... that is, if they are actually still working. Plus, when the cost of countless other consumer items are decreasing due to laws of supply and demand, Broadway is already behind the times.and/or
(B) Rethink extraneous ticket charges -- Stop nickel and diming theatre patrons with service and handling charges and facilities charges. In the case of the aforementioned ticket, those charges total a whopping ten percent of the end price patrons must fork over.Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't want to pay any more for a ticket than I have to, and I certainly do not seek to be taxed any more than I already am. But unless our theatre leaders put their money where their mouths are, their squawking could very well fall on deaf ears in Albany.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).