NASAA Notes: November 2015

November 2, 2015

Will Budget Deal Affect NEA Funding?

As we reported last week, President Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on a sweeping budget bill that sets the parameters for the federal budget for the next two years. The deal is significant. With those guidelines in place, the chance of a government shutdown over spending is substantially reduced (though new House Speaker Paul Ryan [R-WI] said in a news conference this week that a government shutdown remains an option if the president does not cede to some policy changes). In addition, the bill increases spending—$80 billion over two years (evenly distributed between domestic and defense spending)—giving Congress and the administration further latitude to address spending priorities.

The bill does not specify funding levels for specific agencies. That component of the process must be addressed through an appropriations bill, which Congress must complete by December 11 (when current funding expires). There are two likely outcomes: Congress could pass an omnibus appropriations bill to set funding, or the House and Senate could pass another short-term continuing resolution to give themselves more time to negotiate.

Naturally, arts advocates ask what this means for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Is the agency eligible for additional funding? Theoretically, the answer is yes. Congress now has an extra $20 billion to allocate for domestic spending during the current fiscal year. However, it is very unlikely that Congress will spread the additional funds broadly across all federal agencies. Instead, it is likely that the president and Congress will work to identify mutually agreed upon areas of the budget in which to increase funding. One such target is the Highway Trust Fund, whose funding is perilously low and must be increased by the end of the year.

Moving forward, it is possible that the Obama administration and Congress will seek to increase funding for the NEA. After years of fighting to protect level funding for the agency, sentiment in Washington toward the NEA appears to be turning. This new tone was emphasized in August, when Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the former chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee (which has jurisdiction over the NEA’s budget), said that he could envision Congress substantially increasing NEA funding over the next five years. Although Simpson’s comments have not been repeated by any other member of the chamber, he is a well-respected voice in Washington, and therefore his support is important.

NASAA and other arts advocates are working in coordination with one another to determine Congress’s plans under the new agreement, and we will keep our members and colleagues apprised of any opportunity that might exist to increase funding for the NEA this year. In addition to supporting these opportunities, we would work to ensure that any such funding is included within the federal-state partnership, meaning that state and regional arts agencies would be eligible for 40% of those funds.

If you have specific questions in the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly at 202-540-9162 or

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Research on Demand




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