On behalf of Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund, I wish to congratulate President Barack Obama and all of the national, state, and local elected leaders across the country who won their elections last night.
President Obama will now have the opportunity to fully realize his vision for the arts and culture as he originally laid out four years ago. By successfully securing healthcare for artists, economic recovery funds that saved artists’ jobs through the National Endowment for the Arts, and ongoing support for appropriations that fund federal cultural agencies, the president has taken many steps in supporting the nonprofit arts sector.
We hope to encourage President Obama and his administration over the course of the next four years to remain focused on maintaining arts education in every classroom; allocating a larger budget for the arts as an economic generator for American jobs, products, and communities; and protecting charitable giving incentives that are the lifeblood of the nonprofit arts sector.
We are proud that the nonprofit arts sector has already played an important role in our nation’s economic recovery by generating $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs, and returning $22 billion in tax revenue back to federal, state, and local coffers.
The make up of the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with a few races still to be called, is poised to remain relatively the same with modest gains by Democrats in both chambers. In the House of Representatives, we are happy to report that Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) won re-election in a hard-fought campaign made difficult by New York’s congressional redistricting plan. Also, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) will continue to chair the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, ensuring a friend of the arts remains at the head of that very important panel.
With the retirements of former Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) and Interior Subcommittee member Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and the losses of moderate Republican Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Charlie Bass (R-NH), the number of Republicans that formed a crucial pro-arts voting bloc in the House has taken a hit.
Their defeats mean we have to re-double our education of new members to ensure a firewall against possible future congressional attacks on arts funding. We look forward to working with newly elected Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) who bring their stellar House arts voting records to the Senate.
The new 113th Congress and President Obama face a daunting task in confronting possible fallout from the effects of an automatic “sequester,” which would mean an 8-10 percent across-the-board cut to military and discretionary funding, including arts and culture funding if a resolution cannot be reached in the upcoming lame duck session scheduled to begin next week.
Congressional leaders are also faced with making hard choices as they look for ways to tackle our debt in a fair and balanced manner. It is our hope they can reach across the aisle and come to agreement without impeding charitable giving or disproportionally cutting or eliminating modest but vital federal investments.
State & Local Elections and Ballot Questions
While the national focus was on federal elections, there were some important state and local election results that impact the arts. There were no huge surprises among gubernatorial races with Republicans picking up the open North Carolina seat. This now gives the GOP control of 30 of the nation’s governorships. We were happy to see that Delaware Gov. Jack Markel, who recently participated in the release of a statewide economic impact report on the nonprofit arts industry in Delaware and is committed to further support of the arts, was re-elected.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, which saw its state arts funding zeroed out and then re-funded the following year, many moderate state senate Republicans lost their primaries to more conservative candidates. Several key moderate Republican members of the Senate will not return in 2013, including Senate President Steve Morris and Senator Roger Reizt, who were important to restoring state arts funding in Kansas.
There were several ballot initiatives this year at the state and local level that could have a direct impact on the arts and arts education. In California, Proposition 30 was passed, which will provide billions of dollars to California’s strapped school districts for such things as more consistent resources for arts education throughout the state. In Portland, OR, voters overwhelmingly approved a specific $35 per person tax measure that would be used to restore arts education in public schools. And, in Austin, TX, voters approved Proposition 18 that would allow the city to provide funding for designing, constructing, improving, and equipping library, museum, and cultural arts facilities and film production.
As we move beyond the 2012 elections, we encourage you to add your voice to our growing numbers of Americans for the Arts Action Fund members by signing up today. It’s free and easy!