February 22, 2007
Executive Director's Column
The president’s budget request for NEA FY 2008 includes some new provisions of special interest to state arts agencies (SAAs). Chief of these is language that consolidates the Challenge America and American Masterpiece grant amounts within the Basic Plan and Underserved components of the Partnership Agreements. While the grant application narratives will still describe how each SAA carries out the purposes of the different NEA initiatives, the means and the resources SAAs employ will be determined by you in the context of your own state’s cultural policy goals. The great benefits of this change, as enumerated in the budget request, include:
- Greater flexibility for States in the use of federal resources;
- Increased ability for the States to direct their resources more strategically;
- Greater leverage for the States to engage their governors and state legislators in matching federal funds for the arts;
- Enhanced opportunities for the NEA and the States for collaborative planning and complementary grant-making; and
- Administrative efficiency for the NEA and the State Arts Agencies.
The request specifically notes that this proposal “has the support of the affected parties,” anticipating the first question members of Congress would have, and referring to the very valuable dialogue that takes place between the NEA and the state arts agencies through NASAA.
From a distance, one might imagine that such a basic step in streamlining the federal-state funding relationship would be a fairly simple procedure. In the bureaucratic reality, the close collaboration between numerous individuals was necessary. Your NASAA leadership, staff and legislative counsel; John Ostrout and Andi Mathis in the NEA State and Regional office; NEA Government Affairs Director Ann Guthrie Hingston, Deputy Chairman for Management & Budget Larry Baden, Deputy Chairman for Grants & Awards Tony Chauveaux and others participated, coming to a common understanding of the issues involved, agreeing on the best solution, and considering the possibility of unintended consequences. Of course, the support of NEA Senior Deputy Chairman Eileen Mason and Chairman Dana Gioia is critical, and communication with personnel in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must be effective. As always, NASAA will coordinate conversation between NASAA members and those members of the House and Senate appropriation committees most directly involved in the approval of NEA budget legislation.
During the informative telephone conference calls John and Andi conducted the week of February 12, I hope that NASAA members noted the announcement that the NEA had approved the continuation of funding for the National Governors’ Association (NGA) to produce issue briefs focused on how the arts and cultural activities can be valuable resources in addressing the priority agenda items of chief state executives and their staffs. NASAA works closely with the NEA and NGA on this project. Next in line are an issue brief on the role of state government in advancing a state’s film industry and an in-depth report on the value of the arts in economic development.
The NEA-state arts agency relationship has always been complex and dynamic. The need for a united voice to express the range of state arts agency interests in that relationship was one of the primary forces motivating state arts agency leaders to create NASAA. With the growth and maturity of the state arts agency movement, collaborative policy development and the “grantor-grantor” relationship have become increasingly important partnership components. From this perspective, the current budget proposal reflects a balance of NEA and state arts agency policy interests capping a 40-year dialogue. If Congress considers the provisions of this budget request favorably, our joint efforts to build a stronger, more mutually supportive federal-state partnership can be one of the things we celebrate at NASAA’s 40th anniversary in Baltimore, MD, this December.
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