Maybe not every Eagles fan is lining up for Nutcracker tickets, but yesterday, some of the biggest guys barbecuing ribs outside Lincoln Financial Field stuck up for the ballet.
Fans said they'd be willing to pay a few extra dollars in sales tax on Eagles tickets to help balance the state's beleaguered budget.
"Don't single people out," said Tom Kennerly, 62, of Roxborough, who pays $1,000 a year for season tickets. "If they're going to distribute it equally, don't just do it to people going to the Art Museum."
A tax on museum and performing-arts tickets has emerged as a key to the proposed $27.9 billion state budget plan outlined Friday night by Gov. Rendell and legislative leaders. The plan would subject those tickets to the sales tax: 8 percent in Philadelphia, 6 percent elsewhere. Sports events and movies, however, would still be exempt from the tax.
Word of the proposed agreement set off a howl over the weekend from arts-community leaders and patrons. Some said the sales tax should apply to sports tickets as well.
And if 16 Eagles fans interviewed yesterday are any guide, sports patrons are willing to carry part of the budgetary load.
"The arts are suffering enough," said Lauren Reilly, 27, a marketing manager who lives in Old City.
Reilly, decked out in a retro Eagles T-shirt, eyed the hundreds of people tailgating or heading into the stadium yesterday afternoon to see the Eagles lose to the New Orleans Saints. "They should tax sports, too," she said. "They'd probably make a lot more money."
None of the fans interviewed yesterday was eager to spend more per ticket. But they said an added sales tax wouldn't drive them away.
"We're locked in," said Joe Sisca, 59, a police officer from Northeast Philadelphia. "I'm always going to come to Eagles games."
Eagles Fan No. 1 - the governor - has thus far sidestepped questions about why the proposed budget deal would tax museum and concert tickets but not pro sports. Rendell's spokesman, Gary Tuma, said yesterday no details about the tentative agreement were being released yet.
When a reporter asked Rendell on Friday night how his wife, federal Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, would view a tax on tickets to her favorite arts venues and not on those of her husband's favorite teams, the governor said only that the judge would be delighted that the budget deal includes $300 million more for education, and "that education was most important above all else."
Under the tentative agreement announced Friday, tickets to concerts, live theater, museums, and zoos would be subjected to the state sales tax. Lifting the exemption on those venues would generate an estimated $100 million.
Other goods and services now exempted from the state sales tax range from candy and gum to basic cable TV and dry cleaning. It's not yet clear why tickets to museums and the arts were singled out for the new tax.
Sources familiar with the budget deal said it called for establishing a special fund to support cultural institutions, which would receive most of the ticket-tax revenue in lieu of a subsidy from the state's general fund. But the exact percentage of the revenue to be directed to the fund has not yet been worked out, sources said.
Indeed, the deal is far from done. A spokeswoman for State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.), the House Appropriations Committee chairman, said legislative staff members were preparing to draft a budget report and related legislation to present to a bipartisan conference committee over the next few days.
Once the conference committee signs off on the report, it will be sent to the House and Senate for consideration, a process that could take 10 days or more. "We're working as quickly as possible," Evans spokeswoman Johnna Pro said.
Most of the Eagles fans interviewed yesterday said they now paid anywhere from $70 to $95 per ticket; an 8 percent sales tax would add roughly $6 to $8 to that price. Season-ticket holders said they spent at least $1,000 for a seat.
Many Eagles fans said they were art and museum patrons, too. Walt George, 45, of Springfield Township, Montgomery County, said he took his children to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia every six weeks. Kennerly said he often went to the Art Museum.
Chris Logan, 33, of Norristown, said he had already shouldered price increases for his season tickets over the last five years. His upper-level seats once cost $60 a game; now he pays $75. With parking, food, and beer costs, he estimates he pays an additional $110 each game just to grill and drink with friends and family.
And if he had to, he'd pay an 8 percent sales tax on his tickets.
"Would I be happy? No," Logan said. "But it's not about the price. It's about the love."