NASAA Notes: October 2009


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Thomas L. Birch

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October 7, 2009

2010 NEA Budget Near Final; Transportation Enhancement Funds Threat Defeated

Congress Close to Final Action on NEA 2010 Budget

On September 24, the Senate passed the fiscal year 2010 Interior Appropriations Bill, including funds for the National Endowment for the Arts at $161.3 million, the same level proposed by President Obama in his budget sent to Congress in May. The NEA’s current budget stands at $155 million. The companion legislation passed by the House of Representatives on June 26 would allocate $170 million for the arts endowment in the coming year.

During Senate floor action on the Interior funding bill, there was no debate over the increased funding levels proposed for the NEA in the year ahead.

The differences between the two bills must now be resolved by a House-Senate conference committee before the final measure is approved by both chambers and signed by the president. In either instance, the arts endowment looks poised to see an increase in funds for the coming year. With Senate passage of the Interior funding bill, 6 of the 12 appropriations measures have been approved by both chambers.

In the meantime, the president has signed a continuing resolution passed by the House and Senate to fund all federal agencies whose regular appropriations bills had not been enacted before the October 1 start of the new fiscal year. The stopgap spending measure runs through the end of October, anticipating the need for Congress to take more time to finish its work on spending bills after the 2010 fiscal year begins. The bill would keep most federal spending at fiscal 2009 levels.

Transportation Enhancement Funds Threat Defeated

During Senate floor debate in mid-September on funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced two amendments aimed at stripping funds for the Transportation Enhancement (TE) program. The Senate voted down both of Coburn’s amendments.

The TE program requires states to set aside 10% of federal transportation funding for a range of “transportation enhancements,” which include such projects as pedestrian and bicycle paths, landscaping and scenic easements, historic preservation and public art. Currently funded at approximately $580 million, the program is administered by state transportation departments. In the past, state arts agencies have successfully collaborated with state transportation agencies to fund transportation-related projects of design and public art.

Keep abreast of current congressional news and federal legislative updates, and be sure to take advantage of NASAA’s arts advocacy tools and services.