New Jersey towns could soon have the option to ask their residents if they should raise taxes to fund arts and culture.

A measure has been released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee that would give Garden State municipalities a mechanism to put the issue, to create dedicated funds for the arts, before their voters.

A public question, which would be put forth in either a general or special election, would specify the sum or rate of a proposed annual tax levy that could only be used to promote art and culture. That could include performing, visual and fine arts, dance, music, film, folk arts, even video, digital media and graphic design.

Michael Darcy, executive director of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, said there’s a very good reason why there is a great deal of interest in this: "arts and culture has been shown to be a very useful economic development tool in communities.

He said the arts can be used as a magnet for drawing in other retail development and other residential development.

He noted many Jersey communities have a tax to raise money for open space funding, because having open space can enhance the value of a town.

"Arts and culture can do the same thing, so having the tool in your toolbox to set up a special tax fund to encourage arts and culture is yet another arrow in the quiver," Darcy said.

He said many municipalities are already strained financially, trying to do more with less, so money for arts and culture might never even be included in a proposed budget.

He stressed the legislation is not calling for any new requirement to raise taxes for arts and cultures -- it’s simply giving communities a template for doing so in a way that fits their needs.

Assembly representatives Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson, Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, and Nicholas Chiaravalloti, D-Hudson, are sponsoring the measure that could be considered by the full Assembly in the coming weeks.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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