Speakers struck a cautiously optimistic note at a rally at City Hall today where more than 200 people showed up at noon to protest a proposed state sales tax on arts and culture tickets.
"It looks like [the tax] is not happening," said Robert J. Weaver, the organizer of a coalition of arts groups. "But we won't consider this over until the budget is signed and the arts are not taxed."
The proposal - which would have added 8 percent to the cost of a ticket in Philadelphia and 6 percent in the rest of state - had enraged arts and culture organizations across the state who have inundated lawmakers with phone calls, e-mail and faxes.
The protesters were buoyed by Thursday's vote by Democrats on a state house committee to rewrite several elements of the budget deal that Gov. Rendell and legislators agreed to two weeks ago.
The new measure would remove language that imposes a sales tax on tickets to plays, concerts, zoos and museums. Instead, levies would be placed on natural-gas drillers, smokeless tobacco and cigars.
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.) exhorted the crowd to continue to apply pressure on state lawmakers. He said he had received more than 2,500 e-mails opposing the arts tax in the previous 24 hours.
"Everyone is taking note," Farnese said. "You are being heard."
Still, no one at the rally was ready to begin celebrating.
Local actor Ben Dibble arrived at the rally with hs wife, Amy Dugas Brown, and three children, Lila, 3, Jonah, 2, and Maggie, 1.
Dibble, who has performed at the Arden, the Wilma and the Walnut Street Theatre, said he makes a "simple but livable wage" working on nonprofit stages.
He said that given the recession, an arts tax would cause ticket sales to decline further. That would result in fewer shows and smaller shows with fewer actors.
"This tax would not only jeopardize my own vanity as an actor who likes to work a lot," Dibble said, "but also the well-being of my children."