House Votes against Further Cuts to NEA Funds; Bill Sets FY2012 Arts Appropriation at $135M

House Votes against Further Cuts to NEA Funds;
Bill Sets FY2012 Arts Appropriation at $135 Million

July 27, 2011
From: Thomas L. Birch, Legislative Counsel
Vol. 25:11

Today, July 27, the U.S. House of Representatives, during consideration of the fiscal year 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill, defeated by a vote of 181-240 an amendment to take $10 million from the $135 million in the bill for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and apply the funds to a deficit reduction account, which would have set arts funding back to the 2006 level. All Democrats joined by 55 Republicans voted against the amendment to cut NEA funding. (The official roll call of recorded votes will be sent out by NASAA when it becomes available, most likely by tomorrow.)

Leading the opposition to the attempted arts spending cut, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and manager of the bill on the House floor, called the Walberg amendment “excessive” and emphasized the “intent . . . of the National Endowment for the Arts . . . to get the arts out to the rest of America.” He spoke about the value of public support for the arts in rural Idaho with the example of NEA funds to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boyce, Idaho. Simpson was joined on the House floor in remarks opposing the amendment by Reps. Jim Moran (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Todd Platts (R-PA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), John Yarmuth (D-KY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Betty McCollum (D-MN). There were no floor statements in support of the Walberg amendment.

Thanks to all of you for your concerted and persistent advocacy; your good work yielded an excellent result. We have had two victories in one week, having defeated an amendment on Monday that would have eliminated NEA funding altogether.

The House still must finish debate and vote final passage on the Interior Appropriations Bill. That might not happen until Friday or Saturday. Nonetheless, the provisions included in the bill before the House adopt the positions taken by NASAA and our members on issues raised in the administration’s FY2012 budget proposal for the NEA:

  • The bill requires that 40% of all NEA program funds be allocated to the states, as first mandated by Congress in 1997. The administration’s bill exempted funding for the Our Town initiative from the program grants; the House bill includes funds for Our Town in the program budget line.
  • The bill requires the NEA to consult with the states regarding appropriate matching funds and eligibility for waiver of match prior to the development of guidelines and rules.
  • The bill directs that funds to states for arts education not be reduced by a greater percentage than funding decreases applied to other NEA programs.
  • The bill directs the NEA to maintain the current programs of Jazz Masters and Heritage Fellowships.

The Senate must act next. We do not expect action there until after Labor Day. We got what we advocated for in the House and we hope for the same in the Senate: that the Senate bill will mirror the House bill in addressing our policy concerns, but at a higher funding level. We will continue to engage our NASAA members with those legislators who are the influential and key decision makers on the bill. Thank you to all for your dedicated advocacy.