March 31, 2011
From: Thomas L. Birch, Legislative Counsel
Action Update: Congress Nearing 2011 Budget Agreement;
Attention Turning to 2012 Budget Issues
2011 Budget Talks
The House and Senate Republican and Democratic leaders appear to be coming closer to a final agreement on funding for the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. Federal agencies are operating now—until April 8—under the sixth continuing resolution (CR) of the fiscal year. In February, the House passed H.R. 1, with $61 billion in cuts to 2011 spending, including a reduction in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to $124.4 million from $167.5 million in 2010. That measure failed to pass the Senate.
Negotiations on Capitol Hill this week are reported to have come to agreement on cutting as much as $33 billion from the 2011 budget. The two sides already have eliminated $10 billion in passage of the two last CRs, including $40 million in funds for the Department of Education’s Arts in Education grants. That leaves $23 billion in discretionary spending to identify for cuts. Appropriators have been given the signal from their leadership to get to work on figuring where to cut.
In my meetings on Capitol Hill this week and last, House and Senate staff have advised the importance of hearing from constituents on the budget issues.
Contact your representatives and senators NOW to ask for restoration of FY2011 funding for the NEA and the Arts in Education program:
You may contact your senators by e-mail at http://www3.capwiz.com/mygov/dbq/officials/ or by phone through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
2012 NEA Budget Proposal
On April 6, NEA chair Rocco Landesman will testify before the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee to present the administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2012. The budget would cut NEA funds from the 2010 level of $167.5 million to $146.255 million. In the current budget climate, some measure of reduced funding should be expected.
NASAA’s advocacy is focused on keeping the arts endowment’s funding at the highest possible level—to reject the president’s funding request—and to focus congressional attention and action on a number of proposals in the budget that affect state arts agencies, some in a negative way. In meetings I have had with appropriations subcommittee staff, and contacts made by NASAA members from states that have legislators on the key committees, NASAA’s position is clear: the NEA budget must maintain the congressional mandate that 40% of ALL of its program funds be allocated to the states and regions.
In communications with your senators and representatives on the 2012 budget, stress the value of the federal allocation of 40% of NEA program funds to the states and regions.
NASAA will keep you informed and engaged in our advocacy effort as the 2012 budget process unfolds.
NASAA Positions on NEA 2012 Budget Proposal
Following are NASAA’s positions on the issues raised by the FY2012 NEA budget proposal.
Allocation of Program Funds to States: The NEA budget requests that the $5 million that funds the Our Town initiative be exempt from its program funds in 2012. In 2011, funding for Our Town at $5 million is included in the total program funding. The proposal to exempt Our Town funding from the state allocation violates the current policy that was established consistent with congressional directives to allocate 40% of program funds to the state arts agencies. This budgetary shift in funding effectively reduces support to state arts agencies by $2 million. This shift from established policy is inconsistent with the NEA’s own stated budget priority that “State funding will be adjusted commensurate with the overall program reduction.” It is through state arts agencies that the NEA is able to reach beyond its own direct grants into communities throughout the nation. NASAA urges Congress to include any funding for the Our Town program with the program funds allocated as part of the full 40% share to state arts agencies.
Matching Requirements: The NEA is seeking statutory clarification regarding the state arts agencies’ allowed matching requirements. The administration’s intention is to “clarify that match must come from funds controlled and managed by the State and that funds from third parties not directly controlled and managed by the State are not eligible (such as subgrant match).” The proposed clarifying language would allow states to match with such funds as appropriated funds, donated funds and trust funds. Clarification of matching requirements is desirable provided some flexibility is provided to states during the short term. NASAA requests that Congress require the NEA to consult with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the state arts agencies about how to craft this language for the appropriate identification of eligible matching funds.
Match Waivers: The administration’s 2012 budget document seeks permission from Congress to develop criteria on the “waive-of-match” provision for states and regions. The administration explains that while states may seek a waiver authority, it does not appear to be the intent of the NEA’s authorizing legislation “to allow waiver of match in perpetuity,” and guidance is desirable as to the circumstances around the ability of states and regions to seek a waiver of match. Again, NASAA requests that Congress require the NEA to consult with the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and the state arts agencies about how to develop these criteria for waiver of matching funds.
Poetry Out Loud: The NEA proposes to reduce funding to Poetry Out Loud, the national poetry recitation contest. The program was initiated by the NEA and made a national competition with cooperation of state arts agencies. NASAA requests that the NEA first seek other sponsors for this event before considering any reductions to state arts agencies. If any reduction is to be made in Poetry Out Loud, it should be proportional to the decrease in overall program funds. Poetry Out Loud is worthy of maintaining at its current budget level, but if the NEA should be cut, Poetry Out Loud grants to states should not be reduced by a percentage greater than the overall agency cut to program funds.
Arts in Education: Similarly, the NEA is proposing to reduce its support to state arts agencies for arts in education. Prior to the cuts in the NEA budget in the 1990s, the NEA invested $5 million for arts education. This amount has been reduced over the years to $1.7 million in FY2010. NASAA requests that any reduction in support for arts in education should be proportional to funding decreases taken in other NEA programs.
Heritage and Jazz Awards: The NEA proposes to replace national honors in folk/traditional arts and jazz with combined awards that address all art forms. The singular awards are vitally important to promoting the continued health of these efforts, which are typically outside the mainstream of the arts. NASAA supports the position to maintain the National Heritage Awards and Jazz Masters Awards. Many state arts agencies consider their folk and traditional arts programs to be among their highest priorities. Jazz has been called America’s classical music, and is arguably America’s most important original contribution to the arts.