NASAA Notes: October 2018

October 10, 2018

Congress Focuses on Midterms

A central goal for congressional leadership this year was to be able to complete work on all 12 appropriations bills, through regular order, before the fiscal year ended on September 30. This was an ambitious goal, as work on the fiscal year 2018 budget was not wrapped until late March, putting members of Congress about six months behind.

Despite this shortened time frame, considerable progress was made and both chambers completed their work on most appropriations bills—including the Interior-Environment bill, which includes funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). There was even optimism by mid-September as members of Congress from both the House and the Senate were engaged in intense negotiations to try to resolve differences before the September 30 deadline. As we reported, however, despite best efforts Congress was not able to complete the entire process. So while the departments of Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Education are fully funded for FY2019, the remaining government agencies, including the NEA, will operate under a continuing resolution (CR) that extends existing funding levels until December 7.

In one respect this is welcome news, as neither party was particularly interested in the possibility of a government shutdown, particularly with the midterm elections about a month away. The result is nonetheless disappointing for arts advocates, as both the House and Senate had approved a $2 million budget increase for the NEA, to $155 million. Unfortunately, the fact that the agency is operating under a CR means that it will not immediately receive the increase in funds. It is our hope that, when Congress resumes work on the FY2019 budget after the election, it is able to resolve the remaining differences (none of which are related to the NEA) and can pass the remaining appropriations bills.

With remaining funding debates on hold for at least the next few months, members from both parties will focus on the midterm elections, where every representative and 35 senators are up for reelection. Control of both chambers is at stake, and so the next few weeks will certainly be intense.

As the elections approach, many have asked how the potential outcome of the election could impact our work with Congress on behalf of the NEA and the arts generally. The easy (but true) answer is that I am not sure. The current Congress has been an incredible ally in our work to support funding for the arts. It is easy to overlook now, but the NEA was in a very precarious place in early 2017. The Trump administration was calling for elimination of the agency and, with Republicans in control of both chambers, it was unclear whether they would be willing to directly contradict the wishes of their newly inaugurated President. Time and again, however, key members of Congress stepped forward and were tremendous champions for the arts. I am somewhat reluctant to name some of them, for I don’t mean to minimize the valuable contributions of others, but I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the incredible support that members like Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and Udall (D-NM) as well as Representatives Calvert (R-CA), Simpson (R-MT) and McCollum (D-MN) have put forth in support of the NEA. Those Republicans, in particular, have expended much of their political capital, a valuable and limited resource in Washington, to protect the agency from potential elimination or severe cuts in funding.

As we look to 2019 and beyond, it is critical that we learn an important lesson from the past two years. The arts have truly become one of the few issues where legitimate bipartisan consensus exists on Capitol Hill. I am grateful for that, and I know it is the direct result of the thoughtful, dedicated advocacy that NASAA’s members, and the arts community generally, has waged over the last few years. As we prepare for a new Congress next year, which undoubtedly will include a lot of new faces regardless of the parties in control, I look forward to working with all of you to continue our productive work.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

Announcements and Resources

Legislative Update

State to State

Research on Demand

More Notes from NASAA

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