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Friday, July 10, 2009

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Legislative Update

House Approves $15 Million Increase in 2010 Arts Funds

NASAA Legislative Counsel Thomas L. Birch

The House of Representatives voted on June 26 to pass the fiscal year 2010 Interior Appropriations bill with an increase of $15 million in the funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), bringing the proposed budget to $170 million for the coming year. The budget sent to Congress by President Obama would have raised the arts endowment’s spending to $161.3 million over the current funding of $155 million. The measure passed the House without controversy over the federal arts spending.

In his remarks on the House floor, Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, who managed the debate on the bill and was the architect of the spending increase for the NEA, called the bill a “catch-up budget” to make up for shortfalls under the Bush administration. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the ranking Republican on the Interior subcommittee, felt that the bill cost too much but had no quarrel with the allocations. “My major concern is the overall spending level in this bill, but in terms of what we spent it on, I have no problems with the way you’re approaching this,” he said.

The report of the House Appropriations Committee accompanying the bill noted the recommended increase “in recognition of the high quality of programs initiated by the Endowment over the last several years and the broad and bipartisan support it garners.” The House appropriators cited the American Masterpieces, Big Read and Operation Homecoming initiatives for special praise. Noting the reduction in NEA funding by over 40% in the mid-1990s, the report suggests that “the $15,000,000 increase recommended for fiscal year 2010 continues the process of restoring funding to historic levels.”

The bill passed by the House also provides for the reinstatement, as requested by the Obama administration, of four positions on the National Council on the Arts that were eliminated in 1996. The increase in council members will enable the NEA, according to the House report, “to receive counsel and advice from a more diverse body that represents a broader array of arts disciplines and fields.”

In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY10 Interior Appropriations Bill with funding for the NEA set at the president’s budget request of $161.315 million. The same funding is proposed for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the Senate’s measure. The bill passed by the House would raise the NEH funding to $170 million.

Senate floor action is expected when Congress reconvenes the week of July 6 following the Independence Day recess.

 

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