Fourth of July celebrations started early for several states this week, as arts advocates scored major victories in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina.
Ohio Citizens for the Arts is reporting that the state arts council will enjoy a 30.5% increase in funding for the 2012-13 biennium – 62.1 percent more than Governor John Kasich had proposed. The current allocation for FYs 2010-11 is $13.2 million, with the governor proposing only $10.6 million for the upcoming biennium. However, legislatures decided to increase that number to $17.2 million, and the governor agreed!
In Pennsylvania, the House of Representatives had proposed a 70% reduction to the $9 million budget of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts- a stark contrast to Governor Tom Corbett’s request for essentially flat funding. The Senate did not concur, and reinstated the funding: $8.2 million for arts grants, and $866,000 for arts agency administration. The House acquiesced, and the amended budget was sent to the governor for approval.
Finally, the New Jersey Legislature was pushing for a 27% cut to the $16 million budget of the state arts agency, but Governor Chris Christie removed language in the final budget that would have enacted those cuts. And, as most are already aware, South Carolinians scored a major victory as the legislature voted to override Governor Nikki Haley’s line-item veto of arts funding, thus preserving the $1.9 million allocation to their arts commission.
With each of these victories, a powerful statement is being conveyed all across the nation: arts advocates are unwilling to tolerate partisan rhetoric that claims state arts agencies provide superfluous functions. And when they come together to voice this sentiment, legislators listen. These feats could not have been accomplished without strong advocacy organizations that cultivate strong advocates.
I would like to give a shout out to the leaders and members Ohio Citizens for the Arts, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, ArtPride New Jersey, and the South Carolina Arts Alliance for their tremendous work and commitment to protect arts funding. I strongly encourage readers in these states to connect with those organizations and assist them in the continued fight for consistent and adequate funding and to keep this wonderful momentum going!