January 11, 2017
Arts Advocates Needed Now
With President-elect Trump set to be inaugurated on the 20th, activity in Congress is beginning to ramp up. Already, key committees are planning hearings on issues critical to the incoming administration and Congress. As we look ahead, it is clear that Congress plans to take aggressive action on health care and tax reform.
The political and legislative landscapes are less clear for issues, such as the arts, that were not prominent components of the 2016 campaign. Before adjourning in December, President Obama and Republican leadership were able to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open, but that legislation remains in effect only until late April. As work on the fiscal year 2018 budget is set to begin shortly, Congress must simultaneously conduct work to pass legislation funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other government agencies until the current fiscal year expires on September 30. Given the daunting amount of work left, Congress is widely expected to pass another CR, perhaps soon, to complete funding for the remainder of the year and clear the decks, so that the new Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate can begin working with the Trump administration on their priorities in the FY2018 budget.
What this means for us is that it is very unlikely that the NEA would see any changes to its budget for the remainder of FY2017. As we move toward working with Congress on the FY018 budget, a couple of things should be kept in mind. First, support for the NEA on both sides of the aisle has never been higher in recent memory. Both chambers of Congress passed appropriations bills last year increasing funding for the agency (the House passed a $2-million increase, the Senate a $500,000 increase). Further, the expansion of opportunities for the arts to be a part of public school curricula, as a result of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, is significant and speaks to the fact that, after years of our hard work and dedication to building awareness and support, the arts are no longer viewed as a partisan issue.
The wild card in predicting what lies ahead for the NEA and the arts generally is the Trump administration’s plans. Because the president-elect is a true outsider, having never held public office, he does not have a track record upon which policymakers can set expectations.
As a result, our work in advocating for the arts in Washington has never been more important. Whether or not President Trump ends up being our greatest champion, it is still incumbent on all of us to make certain that we are making the case directly to policymakers as to why federal investment in the arts is critical. Therefore, if you have not yet reached out to your elected members of the House and Senate, please do so. The next week or so before the inauguration is a relatively light period in Washington, so legislative staff should have time to read an e-mail or take a phone call. Once the president-elect is inaugurated, the pace is expected to pick up exponentially: the first nine months of a new administration is historically the busiest in terms of legislative activity. Therefore the current window may prove to be the most effective time to reach out and to begin a dialogue.
In the coming weeks, information should begin to surface regarding the new administration’s position with regard to a number of critical issues, including the arts. As developments unfold, NASAA will keep you up to date and let you know how best to engage. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.
In this Issue
State to State
- Alaska: Resolution Protecting Native Artists from State Ivory Bans
- West Virginia: Fast-Track Funding for Natural Disaster Recovery
- California: Arts & Public Media Grant
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