Forget the Shoddy Reporting: Will Michigan Join the Ticket-Tax Parade?

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MoneyFollowing Pennsylvania legislature’s recent decision to institute a tax on certain types of tickets (but exempting sports events in a feat of monumental idiocy), the state of Michigan, a.k.a. the nation’s fiscal basket case, is gearing up for a fight on the same issue.

A story on TicketNews.com, published Oct. 6, examines why Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is proposing a 6 percent tax on tickets to films, sports events and cultural occasions. Should the proposal pass the Michigan legislature — a tall order, given its partisan divide — the tax would raise some $100 million for the state’s increasingly empty coffers.

Story continues below.



What’s worrisome about the TicketNews.com story — other than the fact that one must take the reporting with a grain of salt because TicketNews.com is dedicated to selling tickets — is the ethically questionable absence of quotes from supporters of the tax. It’s especially an example of questionable journalism when you scroll down in the story and find four three quotes from opponents of the tax as well as a link to a website, NoTicketTax.com, created by a “coalition of citizens and sports teams…against the proposal.”

True, the writer, Alfred Branch, Jr., states that Gov. Granholm’s office was contacted and “did not immediately return a message seeking comment…” However, if it is true that the “fight over the tax appears to be falling along party lines,” and given that Branch correctly points out that the Democrats who control the state House “are not ruling…out” the tax, Branch could easily have called Democrats in the Michigan House who are aligned with Gov. Granholm’s proposal. The website for the Michigan House, by the way, is http://house.michigan.gov. Click on it — within five seconds you’ll find the name of the Speaker of the Michigan House, Andy Dillon. Easy, done.

Setting aside the skewed journalism at hand, the Michigan proposal brings to three the number of states exploring how to capitalize upon ticket sales as a way to beef up state treasuries. To be sure, the outcry in Pennsylvania is continuing apace; I noted earlier that New York Gov. David Paterson’s attempt to legislate a small tax on tickets earlier this year freaked out the Broadway producing community, which suddenly worried that theatergoers paying $120 a ticket for a musical like Billy Elliot would sit home on their hands if asked to pay $130.

At least in Michigan the pain, such as it is, would be spread in an egalitarian fashion, in that the tax would apply, per the TicketNews.com story, to all event tickets — “concerts, shows, sporting events and movies.”

Whether tax is legislated in Michigan or not, whether the legislation in Pennsylvania remains without adjustment or amelioration or not, whether Gov. Paterson’s proposal in New York returns in some other form in 2010 or not, I wish to reiterate a point I made in my earlier post about the Pennsylvania situation: What are the arts prepared to sacrifice for the sake of the economy, for the sake of a state’s finances, for the sake of the nation? No one questions how horrible the recession has been for cultural and sporting events. But the argument that people will skip a play or skip a baseball game because tickets, which are already high, would go up another $6 or even $10 is simply not believable. It’s really high time people stopped crying wolf.