Speakers struck a cautiously optimistic note yesterday at a rally at City Hall, 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, 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 the state - had enraged arts and culture organizations across Pennsylvania. They 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, natural-gas drillers, smokeless tobacco, and cigars would be taxed.
State Sen. Larry Farnese (D., Phila.) exhorted the crowd to keep applying 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 his 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 in nonprofit theater.
He said that given the recession, an arts tax would cause ticket sales to decline further. That would result in fewer 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."