Reactor

The Post-Election State of Arts Funding

by Hrag Vartanian on November 7, 2012

The Americans for the Arts Action Fund President and CEO Robert L. Lynch has issued a statement today regarding last night’s election results and we found the whole thing — packed full of interesting facts about the election that many of us didn’t know — important enough to post here (bold-faced name emphasis theirs):

On behalf of Americans for the Arts Action Fund, I wish to congratulate President Barack Obama and all of the national, state, and local elected leaders across the country who won their elections last night.

White House
President Obama will now have the opportunity to fully realize his vision for the arts and culture as he originally laid out four years ago. By successfully securing healthcare for artists, economic recovery funds that saved artists’ jobs through the National Endowment for the Arts, and ongoing support for appropriations that fund federal cultural agencies, the president has taken many steps in supporting the nonprofit arts sector. We hope to encourage President Obama and his administration over the course of the next four years to remain focused on maintaining arts education in every classroom; allocating a larger budget for the arts as an economic generator for American jobs, products, and communities; and protecting charitable giving incentives that are the lifeblood of the nonprofit arts sector.

We are proud that the nonprofit arts sector has already played an important role in our nation’s economic recovery by generating $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs, and returning $22 billion in tax revenue back to federal, state, and local coffers.

Congress
The make up of the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with a few races still to be called, is poised to remain relatively the same with modest gains by Democrats in both chambers. In the House of Representatives, we are happy to report that Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) won re-election in a hard-fought campaign made difficult by New York’s congressional redistricting plan. Also, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) will continue to chair the HouseAppropriations Interior Subcommittee, ensuring a friend of the arts remains at the head of that very important panel.

With the retirements of former Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) and Interior Subcommittee member Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and the losses of moderate Republican Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Charlie Bass (R-NH), the number of Republicans that formed a crucial pro-arts voting bloc in the House has taken a hit. Their defeats mean we have to re-double our education of new members to ensure a firewall against possible future congressional attacks on arts funding. We look forward to working with newly elected Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who bring their stellar House arts voting records to the Senate.

The new 113th Congress and President Obama face a daunting task in confronting possible fallout from the effects of an automatic “sequester,” which would mean an 8-10 percent across-the-board cut to military and discretionary funding, including arts and culture funding if a resolution cannot be reached in the upcoming lame duck session scheduled to begin next week. Congressional leaders are also faced with making hard choices as they look for ways to tackle our debt in a fair and balanced manner.  It is our hope they can reach across the aisle and come to agreement without impeding charitable giving or disproportionally cutting or eliminating modest but vital federal investments.

State & Local Elections and Ballots
While the national focus was on federal elections, there were some important state and local election results that impact the arts.  There were no huge surprises among gubernatorial races with Republicans picking up the open North Carolina seat.  This now gives the GOP control of 30 of the nation’s governorships.  We were happy to see that Delaware Governor Jack Markel was re-elected, who recently participated in the release of a statewide economic impact report on the nonprofit arts industry in Delaware and is committed to further support of the arts.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, which saw its state arts funding zeroed out and then re-funded the following year, many moderate state senate Republicans lost their primaries to more conservative candidates. Several key moderate Republican members of the Senate will not return in 2013, including Senate President Steve Morris and State Senator Roger Reizt, who were important to restoring state arts funding in Kansas.

There were several ballot initiatives this year at the state and local level that could have a direct impact on the arts and arts education. In California, Proposition 30 was passed, which will provide billions of dollars to California’s strapped school districts for such things as more consistent resources for arts education throughout the state.  In Portland, OR, voters overwhelmingly approved a specific $35 per person tax measure that would be used to restore arts education in public schools. And in Austin, TX, voters approved Proposition 18 that would allow the city to provide funding for designing, constructing, improving, and equipping library, museum, and cultural arts facilities and film production.

This is a great summary of what yesterday meant to the arts in many different ways. This type of organized timely information released directly after the election is the type of thing that arts community needs to safeguard important veins of funding and support but also to be more proactive (rather than reactive) in the future.

In a blog post published today on the Huffington Post, Lynch outlines some other points that are worth noting, but this passage is the most significant:

Roughly 10 percent of the $61 billion aggregate budgets of the nonprofit arts in America comes from government — mostly local and then state government and finally federal sources. Yes, this is a tiny portion of the whole, and it is actually a lot smaller than many people, including many politicians, think. This 10 percent is indeed a small amount compared to the 30 percent the private sector — (mostly) individuals — chips in and the 60 percent that comes from earned and investment income.

But that 10 percent is critical in what is a very conservative funding model for arts in our country. I call this model conservative because a very modest government investment leverages more than 60 times as much private and earned revenue to create a whole industry and support millions of jobs. How? A $146 million investment from the federal government directly leverages close to $5 billion more in local and state government investment, which in turn helps leverage another $50 billion to create the $61 billion nonprofit arts industry in America.

This model has helped grow an industry from a handful of organizations in 1965 — when the federal cultural funding agencies like National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) came into being — to more than 110,000 arts businesses today. And that core of nonprofit organizations has served as the catalyst and R and D engine if you will, that has helped spawn 800,000 additional for-profit arts-centric business like the local music store or dance studio or Hollywood or Broadway, collectively 4.2 percent of all American businesses.

Can a moment like that one that took place in 1965 happen again? Can we grow the arts through responsible and intelligent government investment in the arts? I think most people in the arts would argue yes.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kim-Matthews/586667086 Kim Matthews

    Don’t you mean “points that are worth NOTING”?

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      Oops … Freudian slip.

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