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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Credit where it is due

Cut in sales tax was due to Donna Walsh’s efforts
By Catherine O’Reilly Collette

A version of this letter recently ran in the Westerly Sun. Click here for a description of the new tax exemption for original art on Rep. Walsh's website.

The Sun recently ran an editorial reprinted from the Newport Daily News praising the new tax relief granted artwork and other goods enacted in the General Assembly. The piece gave lots of credit to the  Senate President for the legislation.

This is natural since she represents the city of Newport, but I think your readers should know that it was Representative Donna Walsh (Charlestown, Westerly, South Kingstown, Block Island) who originated the idea of tax exemption on all limited production art.

Rep. Walsh has been trying to get various versions of this bill passed since 2008. She introduced it several times without success on behalf of several towns she represents with the conviction that it would stimulate business for artists, galleries, and tourism in South County.

Last November, after a discussion with Charlestown Gallery co-owner Dave Gilstein, Donna decided to make the bill’s tax exemptions statewide. She met with a now receptive leadership in December, and in the Spring had Dave Gilstein testify at the State House with other artists and gallery owners about the positive impact the bill would have on this important and growing segment of our economy.

Since the bill had a financial impact it went in as an article in the overall budget. Donna’s name does not appear anywhere in connection with it, but she did almost five years of work to get it there. She also held a Forum for artists, gallery owners and the State Council on the Arts on November 22nd to explain the exemptions and what artwork will qualify.

The new rules exempting limited production and original artwork took effect on December 1. We stopped in to Charlestown Gallery this week to buy a Christmas present, and Dave and his partner Rene O’Gara told us that the new exemption had already had a positive effect on their business.

It is a long slog sometimes to get a good idea and then go through the lengthy process at the State House to get a bill passed. Congratulations and job well done to Representative Walsh, Dave Gilstein, and all the South County artists who did not give up on a good idea.
Cathy Collette chairs the Charlestown Democratic Town Committee although her letter was on her own, and not at town committee. Cathy is also been married to Progressive Charlestown co-editor Will Collette since 1971.