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House Committee Seeks to Gut the NEA

by Jillian Steinhauer on July 25, 2013

Image via Flickr user Tax Credits

Image via Flickr user Tax Credits

In April, President Obama proposed his 2014 fiscal year budget, which, happily for us culture lovers, includes increases of some $15 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. But Obama’s proposal was just the first step in a long, winding budget process, and now the Republicans have spoken: they want to slash the NEA and NEH budgets in half.

The numbers come from a bill written by the House Appropriations subcommittee on Interior & Environment. Their proposal shaves a total of $5.5 billion off last year’s federal budget — which actually means $4 billion below current spending levels, because of the sequestration — to spend $24.3 billion. The arts cuts are notable, with the committee offering a paltry $75 million each for the NEA and NEH. That’s a 49% cut from the current funding level for both agencies, which is roughly $139 million after sequestration. The budget also calls for a 19% decrease in funding for both the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art; for the former, that means a reduction of $155 million, and for the latter, a reduction of $24.5 million.

Hyperallergic spoke with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, a Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, about the bill. “They’ve taken away all the money for the NEA and NEH,” she said. “They are slicing, cutting stupidly. I’m absolutely amazed. What a short-sighted thing for them to do.”

And the arts are far from the only target. The Republican-led committee is attempting to decimate the Environmental Protection Agency, which it says “has been rife with governmental overreach, overspending on ineffective and unnecessary programs, and costly and questionable regulations.” The bill allocates $5.5 billion to the EPA, a 34% ($2.8 billion) reduction from FY 2013. It also cuts the budgets for the National Park Service and the US Geological Survey by 9%.

“It’s exactly what they’re doing,” Slaughter said, “every appropriations bill. It makes no sense. We know the Senate won’t do that, but probably they’re making some kind of point to somebody somewhere and then we’ll end up with the CR [continuing resolution] trying to keep the government running.”

As further proof of some House Republicans’ misdealings, Slaughter pointed us to a report issued this week by the office of House Democrat George Miller, which found that 14 Republican Representatives have received million of dollars in farm subsidies while also voting to end the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka food stamps.

“After five years it’s pretty difficult to continue hoping for the best,” Slaughter said. “They’re doing extraordinary harm to the country.”

Still, she assured us that “we’ll fight ’em right down to the last drop. We will not give up on it. Our backstop for the longest time now has been the Senate. We can save some of it [arts funding] — all of it, I’m not sure.”

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