Senate Advances NEA Funding Bill

June 14, 2016
From: Isaac Brown, Legislative Counsel
Vol. 16:03
This morning, the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee advanced legislation funding several agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). That legislation recommends increasing funding for the NEA (currently at $148 million) by $500,000 for fiscal year 2017. The full Senate Appropriations Committee announced that it plans to consider and approve the legislation during a markup hearing this Thursday morning.
The modest increase in funding, only $500,000, is disappointing, particularly because it is lower than the $2 million increase (to $149.85 million) proposed by President Obama and currently being considered in the House of Representatives. That being said, it is important to keep in mind that, in advancing this bill today, the Interior Subcommittee approved legislation that cuts the overall funding for agencies included within the bill (which, in addition to the NEA, includes the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior) by $125 million.
As the full Senate Appropriations Committee prepares to consider the legislation on Thursday, I urge any of you represented by one of the members of the committee to reach out to that office and make the following points:
  • Acknowledge that the committee, while reducing overall funding within the bill, did increase funding for the NEA.
  • Then urge the senator to support increasing funding for the NEA to at least the $2 million figure supported by the president and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Add, for context, that NASAA and other arts advocates are urging NEA funding at $155 million.
  • Thank them for Congress’s continued support of the federal-state partnership that directs 40% of all grant dollars appropriated to the NEA to state arts agencies (SAAs).
  • Let them know what your agency is doing and how important NEA funding is to your operations.
As I mentioned when the House bill was introduced a few weeks ago, while NASAA supports the legislation as currently drafted, we greatly appreciate your outreach to these offices for at least two reasons. First, even in years where funding for the NEA is increased, members of Congress want to know what their constituents think. Second, in addition to approving the appropriations bill, the committee will approve a yet to be released committee report that accompanies the legislative text; this report sends directive language to the executive branch regarding how Congress believes the administration should spend the funds. It is in this text where support is usually expressed for the allocation of 40% of NEA program funds to SAAs, as well as other priorities for SAAs. Therefore, having committee members hear from state arts agencies and their supporters will only help us as that document is developed.
Thank you for your continued attention and efforts. It makes all the difference!