Thursday, January 29, 2009

Legislative Alert from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies


The House of Representatives on Wednesday, January 28, passed the economic stimulus legislation – H.R.1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – with provisions intact allocating $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. All Republican House members, joined by 11 Democrats, voted against the measure.

TAKE ACTION: The Senate expects to vote on its version of the stimulus legislation the week of February 2. If you have not yet done so, please contact your senators urging their support to retain the $50 million allocation for the National Endowment for the Arts when the economic stimulus legislation takes final shape by including the provision passed by the House, with 40% of the NEA funds going to state arts agencies and the remainder distributed in direct grants to fund arts projects that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector.

Reach your senators by phone through the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or by email at

  • Public funding for the arts is a sound investment in states and communities facing tough economic conditions.
  • The arts generate jobs, tax revenues and consumer spending.
  • NEA funds to state arts agencies will enable state support for the arts to continue where a depressed economy has resulted in revenue shortfalls.
In the days leading up to the House floor debate on the bill, the arts funding had been singled out by critics of the legislation as an example of needless spending. When the measure came to the House floor on Wednesday, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chair of the Appropriations Committee and floor manager for the bill, asserted that such claims caused the debate to become “incredibly trivialized.” In defense of the spending decisions made in the bill, he pointed out that the “arts funding in this bill is a tiny fraction of this entire bill . . . about 6 cents out of every $1,000 contained in this legislation.”

He then aimed his remarks at the economic purposes of the legislation and the economic significance of the arts sector: “People ask, What does funding for the arts have to do with jobs? It is very simple. People in the arts field are losing their jobs just like anybody else. . . . You have local arts agencies, you have local orchestras, local symphonies and local arts groups of all kinds who are shutting down, laying people off, and in a number of instances going bankrupt. This is a small, tiny effort to keep some of those people employed over the next two years. I make no apology for it. We have an obligation to salvage as many jobs as we can regardless of the fields in which people work.”

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and sponsor of the arts funding in the stimulus package, joined Obey in defending the NEA funds. He cited the arts community as a tremendous cultural resource that “also serves to create jobs in local communities all across our nation.”

Dicks went on to say that the arts sector of the economy “has been inordinately impacted by the severe economic downturn we have been experiencing in this past year . . . and the result has been disastrous for many of our nation's arts agencies and programs. . . . The amount in this bill is intended to provide small grants to try to restore some of the jobs which have been lost in the arts communities over the past year. In addition to retaining jobs, these funds will support programs which provide entertainment and richness in the lives of our communities at a time when they are badly needed. In the context of this large economic stimulus legislation, I believe this is a prudent investment, and that it will contribute measurably to restoring the fiscal health of our nation.”

Speaking in opposition to the bill, Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) included the arts funding in a list of “special interest groups' pet projects” that “represent an increase in government spending, not job creation.” Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-FL), also speaking against the legislation, cited the NEA funding with others as “some of the most egregious examples of programs within the massive spending bill.”

Democrats voting against the stimulus package were Reps. Allen Boyd (D-FL), Bobby Bright (D-AL), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Parker Griffith (D-AL), Paul Kanjorski (D-PA), Frank Kratovil (D-MD), Walt Minnick (D-ID), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Heath Shuler (D-NC), and Gene Taylor (D-MS), including four freshman members of the House, three of whom replaced Republican officeholders.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's scary how some people view the arts. I've also read that some Kansas Republicans are asking Sebelius to consider taking money from educational art programs in schools. Sad.