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California Governor’s Proposed Budget Would Halve Arts Funding

The California State Capitol in Sacramento (photo by Jessica Paterson/Flickr)
The California State Capitol in Sacramento (photo by Jessica Paterson/Flickr)

After a landmark year for California’s arts funding, which saw support for the California Arts Council (CAC) boosted by $5 million, Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget for 2015–16 allocates just $1.1 million to the organization. If the governor’s budget is approved, CAC’s total budget for the next year will be $4.9 million, just under half of its $10 million budget for 2014–15.

Overall, his budget allocates a total of $113 billion in spending from the state’s general fund, a 1.4% increase from last year.

State support for the CAC — which distributes grants to nonprofits working in the arts and arts education — totaled about $6 million in 2014–15, the highest it’s been since the agency’s funding was slashed by 94% in 2003. Though it was made clear at the time that the $5 million boost was a one-time increase, the state’s arts advocates were hopeful that Brown would continue to prioritize culture in his budget proposals.

“It shouldn’t really be much of a surprise that the number went down again. It just means that we’re going to need to work with the governor’s administration again and advocate for more arts funding,” Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), who sits on the Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media, told Hyperallergic over the phone. “The governor is extremely pragmatic. He himself, when he was governor back in the 1970s, created the California Arts Council.”

The proposed allocation of $1.1 million is just sufficient to qualify for a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Times points out. The bulk of the CAC’s funding, meanwhile, will most likely continue to come from the Arts Plate initiative, which offers motorists a vanity license plate designed by Wayne Thiebaud and generates between $2.2 and $3 million annually. Another source of funding for the agency is donations made by California residents on their tax forms ($256,421 in 2013). Despite the demoralizing figure in Brown’s proposed state budget, advocates for the arts are confident that the figure will increase by the time budget negotiations are complete.

“My push is that at the end of the day we haven’t made the appropriate investment in the arts,” Nazarian said. “California has long been at the forefront of the nation’s creative economy — all the more reason to make those investments.”

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