NASAA Notes: July 2016

July 8, 2016

Why an NEA Increase Is Unlikely

As we’ve reported, after months of inaction and infighting, both the House and the Senate took demonstrable steps toward passing legislation funding federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in June. To recap, the House of Representatives is considering legislation increasing funding the for NEA by $2 million, while the Senate’s bill would increase the agency’s budget by $500,000. While we hoped for a larger increase and continue to urge Congress to increase funding by about $7 million (to $155 million), we are appreciative that both chambers have bills before them increasing funding for the arts—particularly since both chambers face considerable pressure to reduce spending in this election year.

The House is expected to pass its appropriations bill for the NEA this week and the Senate is expected to follow next week. In a normal year, the House and Senate would then go into conference to hash out differences between the two bills. (The budget for the NEA is embedded within a much larger bill that funds the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other agencies.)

But it is specifically because this is an election year that it is widely expected that all of the progress made with regard to the NEA will be for naught. This is not due to anything related to the NEA—in fact, support from members of Congress for the agency is at its highest level in recent memory—but disagreements between the president and Congress remain entrenched. For example, within the very same bill that increases funding to the NEA (which the president supports) are several provisions explicitly prohibiting some of the Obama administration’s highest policy priorities, including regulations on emissions from coal power plants. Such measures are called “poison pills” because the president is sure to veto the legislation regardless of what else is included within it. Efforts were taken to have these controversial measures removed before being passed in Congress, but with this being an election year, it became politically difficult to do so.

In addition, the fact that this is an election year places unusually tight scheduling limitations on members trying to negotiate in good faith the differences between the two chambers, as well as with the president. Because of the political convention schedule, Congress is expected to adjourn no later than July 15 and be in session for as little as one more week before the election this fall. Even if the parameters were in place to find a compromise that would allow legislation that increased funding for the NEA, the mere fact that Congress only has two and a half working weeks left before the election means that it almost certainly will have to pass a continuing resolution. This simply would continue current funding levels for agencies in order to keep the government open and operating when the fiscal year ends on October 1.

While this likely outcome is very disappointing, we must keep in mind that we can have every expectation that the progress we made this year (getting both chambers to propose raising the NEA’s budget) will only persist in the years to come as long as we continue to vigilantly make the case for robust funding for the NEA and state arts agencies. NASAA will of course continue to monitor the current situation should an opportunity for a better outcome arise.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Research on Demand




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