June 6, 2016
Modest NEA Increase Proposed
As we reported a few weeks ago, the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget, released and considered its draft legislation funding the federal arts agency for fiscal year 2017.
In the bill, the subcommittee proposes increasing the NEA budget by $2 million, to $149.85 million. In doing so, the subcommittee matched President Obama’s request to Congress. While this number is below the $155 million figure NASAA and other arts organizations continue to urge Congress to set for the NEA, it does reflect the NEA’s continued ascent in the hearts and minds of legislators in Washington. After many difficult years, the majority of arts advocates are no longer in the position of fighting off significant funding cuts—which, despite the economy’s improvement, is still a reality for many other issue based advocates. For example, the same legislation that proposes an increase in the NEA’s budget proposes a cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget of $164 million.
I am convinced that the status the NEA currently enjoys in Congress as a supported program is due entirely to the tireless efforts of arts advocates throughout the country. You never missed a moment to contact your elected officials to make the case for the NEA and to tell them about how funding for the arts endowment helps your states and communities.
The obvious questions, of course, are, What happens next? and What can we do to get this increase across the finish line? First, the timing of this bill remains unclear. After being introduced on May 24, the subcommittee held a short (less than hour long) markup hearing and approved the legislation by voice vote. Always a contentious bill because of issues unrelated to the NEA (the big cut to the EPA, for example), the yet to be scheduled full House Appropriations Committee markup is expected to be the venue for more in-depth consideration. To that end, I urge all of you to scan the list of committee members and, if your state is represented by someone on that list, reach out to that office to make the following points:
- Urge them to support the proposed NEA funding level of $149.85 million.
- Thank them for Congress’s continued support of the federal-state partnership that directs 40% of all grant dollars appropriated to the NEA to state arts agencies (SAAs).
- Let them know what your agency is doing and how important NEA funding is to your operations.
While NASAA supports the legislation as currently drafted, we greatly appreciate your outreach to these offices for at least two reasons. First, even in years where funding for the NEA is increased, members of Congress want to know what their constituents think. Second, in addition to approving the appropriations bill, the committee will approve a yet to be released committee report that accompanies the legislative text; this report sends directive language to the executive branch regarding how Congress believes the administration should spend the funds. It is in this text where support is usually expressed for the allocation of 40% of NEA program funds to SAAs, as well as other priorities for SAAs. Therefore, having committee members hear from state arts agencies and their supporters will only help us as that document is developed.
Thank you for your continued attention and efforts. It makes all the difference!
In this Issue
State to State
- Missouri: Alchemy Award
- Idaho: Idaho Writer in Residence
- New Hampshire: Commission to Study the Economic Impact of Arts and Culture
More Notes from NASAA
From the CEO
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