Arts on Hold Once Again

As already reported in our editorial, there a number of critical policies that effect the arts, which are currently on hold as Congress recesses for the electoral process. The arts and arts education have once again come under fire with regards to both funding and policy. It is even further unclear, that upon return for the final quarter, if a lame duck Congress will accomplish anything further with this regards.

Congress and the administration passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that sets federal spending for FY 2013 through March of next year. Cultural agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education can expect flat funding during this period with the NEA currently budgeted at last year’s level of $146 million.

The debt limit continues to be a major political issue, with both parties deadlocked. If Congress cannot agree on ways to cut back the total (or does not pass a new, higher Budget Resolution), then an “automatic” form of spending cutback takes place. The National Endowment for the Arts, along with almost every other federal agency, will receive a budget cut of about 8.2 percent, or in the NEA’s case, a $12 million cut.

The Charitable Deduction and other incentives continue to be discussed as part of a major tax reform effort. Again, few details have been provided, while both parties remain at a stand still in this election year. While the US Senate has produced legislation to preserve tax free giving to charities from IRA’s, other forms of charitable giving, which are critical to so many arts organizations, may still be in jeopardy.

Lastly, the perception that cutting funding to the arts will somehow reduce our debt and strengthen the economy, just isn’t so! Both the American public and even our representatives need to understand this. Arts funding represents less than 1% of our federal budget, yet plays a significant role in bolstering economies at all levels – federal, state and city.  In a study conducted in Michigan, it was shown that for every $1 invested in the arts, it yields almost $51 back to the economy, creating jobs, bolstering tourism, and bringing in significant new tax revenue.

The positioning of arts within the public policy arena has always been tenuous at best. For many it is viewed as an amenity or even a luxury that we can do with out, especially in difficult financial times.  But as Michelle Obama put it best, “the power of the arts is to remind us of what we each have to offer, and what we all have in common; to help us understand our history and imagine our future; to give us hope in the moments of struggle; and to bring us together when nothing else will.”

It is time once again, for all of us to remind Congress to come together in support of the arts and what should be representative of the heart of our nation. Americans For The Arts has created an easy online means for you to send an email or letter to your representatives. It takes but two minutes of your time – http://capwiz.com/artsusa/issues/alert/?alertid=61901286

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