NASAA Notes: February 2014

February 5, 2014

The President's Ambitious Agenda

In a dramatic departure from recent years of inactivity, 2014 is off to a busy start in Washington. As NASAA reported last month, Congress began its new session by passing the first omnibus appropriations bill since 2009. That bill, which will fund federal agencies for the remainder of fiscal year 2014 (through September 30), provides the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) with $146 million, an increase of $7 million over its previous funding level (when accounting for sequestration) and well above the $75 million initially proposed in the House of Representatives.

While we at NASAA are pleased with this funding level, the condensed timetable in which Congress is moving this year does not provide much time to celebrate. On Tuesday, President Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address to Congress. While he did not discuss arts initiatives directly, the president, clearly frustrated by the opposition he has faced in Congress, promised that 2014 would be “a year of action.” To demonstrate this point, he said that while he plans to work with Congress, he will, whenever possible, employ his existing authority as president and use executive orders to direct federal policy. As the administration looks for opportunities to employ this new mandate, NASAA will look for ways to work with state arts agencies to influence federal policy.

Work related to the FY2015 federal budget is already under way. The White House has announced that the president’s budget recommendations will be released on March 4. In addition to the overall funding level for the NEA, NASAA will be watching the budget closely to see whether the president has indicated a willingness to consider arts programs under STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) funding.

Another important matter to monitor over the next few weeks will be negotiations relating to the federal debt ceiling. You may recall that a standoff over whether to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 led to the creation of the sequester, which continues to hinder federal spending. The Treasury Department expects to run out of borrowing authority later this month, so discussions over whether and how to extend the limit should pick up in earnest soon. NASAA will be watching these talks attentively, as any compromise that further reduces federal spending could once again hinder the NEA.

As always, NASAA will monitor these issues closely and make you aware of any developments. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.