Since the Oregon Cultural Trust started awarding grants in 2003, $430,000 has been distributed in Eastern Oregon. That serves as a pretty good reminder of just how much that organization has done for our area.

In addition to granting money all across the state, the Oregon Cultural Trust empowers each county to establish its own cultural coalition that is given money to regrant. This is the time of year to consider making a gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust - for its benefit and yours. Here's how it works. Contributors to the Oregon Cultural Trust earn a 100-percent tax credit - up to $500 for individuals, $1,000 for couples filing jointly and $2,500 for corporations - when they make equal donations to one or more of Oregon's 1,200 cultural nonprofits.

All cultural donations must be made by Dec. 31 in order to claim the cultural tax credit, which reduces Oregon income taxes owed. A tax credit offers more tax savings than a deduction. It reduces the amount of income on which taxes are based, and thus decreases the final tax bill. Cultural supporters do not have to itemize deductions to claim the tax credit.

Anyone in any income bracket can make a gift of any size, first to a cultural organization, then to the Oregon Cultural Trust, and claim a cultural tax credit. And why is it important? Well, in an era that has been marked by cuts in Oregon's public sector, most notably schools and universities, the Oregon Cultural Trust has been a reminder that our state can be a pioneer.

Our cultural trust has become a national model to stimulate public and private investment in culture. It is the first trust in the nation to offer an integrated program of supporting the arts, history and the humanities. Moreover, it works.

The goal of the program, started in 1998, is to create an endowment of $200 million to support the arts in all Oregon counties. Through June 30, 2006, the Trust raised $10 million through tax credit donations, cultural license plate sales, foundation and other major gifts and in-kind donations plus the interest on the endowment.

So far, some $3.5 million has been distributed in grants. The Register-Guard of Eugene has written that the Oregon Cultural Trust will one day rank alongside the Bottle Bill and voting by mail as a model of Oregon innovation.

"I applaud the Cultural Trust on the breadth and depth of these grants," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said last year. "From Astoria to Pendleton, La Grande to Lakeview, Portland to Ashland, these grants strengthen culture and community in every part of Oregon. The work of the Cultural Trust embodies the spirit of Oregon."

This is the time of year when people who already have given to arts, history and culture nonprofits should think about making a similar gift to the Oregon Cultural Trust. For more information about the trust, consult your tax preparer or log on to www.culturaltrust.org.

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