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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

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NationalAssembly of State Arts Agencies

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Legislative Update

NASAA Legislative Counsel Thomas L. Birch

President Signs 2008 Spending Bill With Arts Funding Increase

On December 26, President Bush signed into law H.R. 2764, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. The Fiscal Year 2008 omnibus appropriations bill, combining funds for eleven of the twelve appropriations bills awaiting final action at the end of the year, includes $144.7 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) - the highest level of NEA funding since 1995. The $20.2 million increase in support for the NEA represents the largest dollar increase in the arts endowment's appropriations since 1979.

NASAA and our advocacy colleagues had urged Congress to restore the NEA funding to the peak level of $176 million reached in 1992. In shaping the funding legislation, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), chair of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, gave top priority to moving toward that restoration of the federal arts funding lost to the drastic cuts taken by Congress in the mid-1990s. The following table represents the allocation of NEA funding among programs for the 2008 fiscal year.

National Endowment for the Arts
Fiscal Year 2008 Funding (in millions)
FY07 FY08 FY07-08 Change
Direct Grants $43.784 $49.220 $5.436 increase
Challenge America Grants $10.496 $ 9.253 $1.243 decrease
Amer. Masterpieces Grants $ 5.911 $13.289 $7.378 increase
Subtotal Grants $60.191 $71.762 $11.571 increase
State Partnership Grants (1) $33.911 $39.376 $5.465 increase
Underserved Grants $ 6.217 $ 8.466 $2.249 increase
Subtotal State/Regional $40.128 $47.842 $7.714 increase
Subtotal Program Grants $100.319 $119.562 $19.285 increase
Program Support $ 1.672 $ 1.673 $.001 increase
Salaries and Expenses $22.571 $23.429 $.858 increase
Subtotal Administration $24.243 $25.102 $.859 increase
TOTAL NEA Funding $124.562 $144.664 $20.102 increase
(1) Includes Challenge America and American Masterpieces funding

A series of veto threats by the President had blocked congressional efforts from passing individual appropriations bills - except for the Defense Department spending measure signed into law in November. The President demanded that spending totals not exceed the overall total for the administration's budget sent to Congress last February. In the final funding measure, appropriations leaders in Congress agreed to meet the President's budget total, while setting many of their own spending priorities within that amount. In the case of the NEA, the President's budget had asked for a $4 million increase in the arts at $128.4 million.

After taking its scheduled year-end break, Congress returned in mid-January from the holiday recess, with little legislative activity scheduled through the end of the month. On February 4, the President is scheduled to present Congress with his proposed budget for the 2009 fiscal year. The process will start all over again, with the legislative atmosphere enlivened by the politics of an election year.

The FY08 omnibus appropriations bill also made changes to the Arts and Artifacts Indemnity Act administered by the NEA. First enacted in 1975, the indemnification program covers the insurance costs for qualifying loans of international exhibitions to museums in the United States. The federal indemnification promise relieves museums of the significant costs of buying insurance to cover the loss or damage to works borrowed for these exhibitions. The new provisions would increase the amount of the available federal indemnity and support a new program of domestic indemnification to help defray the insurance costs for artworks loaned among American museums within the United States.

Finally, the funding legislation includes statutory provisions creating an award honoring artists working in opera, similar to the existing Jazz Master Awards and National Heritage Fellowships bestowed by the NEA.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act includes funding for other federal programs on the NASAA 2007 advocacy agenda.

National Endowment for the Humanities: For the first time in many years, the funding for the NEH is set to equal the NEA's appropriation at $144.7 million, representing an increase of $3.75 million for the humanities endowment.

Arts Education/Department of Education: Congress again this year rejected the President's request to eliminate the competitive Arts in Education grant programs of the U.S. Department of Education, providing an increase of $2.23 million for a total of $37.53 million in 2008. The major share of the $2 million increase will go to fund in the 2008-09 school year the first fast-response arts education survey since 1999.

Office of Museum Services (OMS): Funding for museum programs in the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) did not fare as well as appropriations for NEA or NEH. The total OMS total of $31.272 million represents a cut of $556,000.

International Cultural Exchange: The Educational and Cultural Exchange programs of the U.S. State Department received a $59 million increase for FY08. While no details are included in the appropriations legislation about allocations for the funding, State Department administrators in meetings this year with NASAA's legislative counsel and advocacy colleagues have expressed a desire to increase funds for the competitive grant program that supports international cultural exchanges.

Keep abreast of current congressional news and federal legislative updates, and be sure to take advantage of NASAA's arts advocacy tools and services.