June 16, 2017
Congress Ramps Up Budget Process
Last month, President Trump released his full fiscal year 2018 budget request to Congress. That document calls for significant increases in spending for the departments of Defense (more than $50 billion) and Homeland Security (more than $3 billion). To offset these increases, some agencies would experience substantial reductions in funding (the Department of Education would see a $9 million cut, while the Environmental Protection Agency would experience a 31.4% reduction of its current budget), and others, like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), would be eliminated.
News of the President’s recommendation, while not surprising, is both disappointing and concerning. There are, however, several important factors to consider. First, the President’s request is not a binding document. Rather, it is treated by Congress as an expression of the executive branch’s policy priorities. Historically, even when Congress is controlled by the same party as the President’s, the legislature has viewed the President’s request as a wish list from which it picks and chooses policies to support.
Despite this being the first year of the Trump presidency, Congress is expected to once again demonstrate its independent authority over this process. In fact, in the days immediately following the release of the President’s budget, several influential Republicans in Congress spoke publicly about it being “unrealistic.” While we will know more in the coming weeks when the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee (which has jurisdiction over the NEA’s budget) releases its FY2018 bill, it appears that support in Congress for eliminating the NEA is severely limited. Comments made both publicly and privately by senior members of Congress indicate that the days are long gone when the agency was viewed as a lightning rod or as divisive; today, the NEA is largely viewed by congressmen and senators of both parties as an efficient agency that supports states, economic development and communities throughout the country.
One need look no further than the appropriations bill for the remainder of FY2017, which passed overwhelmingly in Congress and which was signed by President Trump in early May, to appreciate the strong support for the NEA. In that bill, Congress “commended” the agency for its programs providing arts therapy to veterans and their families and expressed “support” for the federal-state partnership that directs 40% of grant dollars to state arts agencies, as well as increasing funding for the agency by $2 million.
The fact that Congress was willing to express such strong support for the agency last month, despite the fact that it was aware that the President was seeking a cut of $15 million for the agency in FY2017 and outright elimination in FY2018, makes clear that Congress is willing to support the agency regardless of pressure from the Trump administration. To ensure that this support is able to continue, we as arts advocates must continue to be vigilant and to communicate regularly with our House and Senate members about why investing in the National Endowment for the Arts must continue.
We expect the House Interior Appropriations Committee to release its first draft of the NEA’s budget for FY2018 in the next few weeks. When it does, I will be in touch immediately with information on what that bill entails as well as how best to respond. As we saw last month, there are many members of Congress on both sides of the aisle working to protect the NEA’s interests. It is therefore going to be incumbent on all of us to make sure that every member understands the value and positive impact that will result from continued federal support for the arts.
In this Issue
State to State
- Florida: Arts and Health Care Indicators
- Maine: 2016 Statewide Arts Education Census
- Pennsylvania: Art Sparks
More Notes from NASAA
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