House Committee Approves FY2013 Bill with Significant Reduction in Arts Funding

On June 28, the House Appropriations Committee passed the fiscal year 2013 Interior and Environment funding bill. The bill sets funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at $132 million, a reduction of $14.3 million from the current allocation of $146.3 million. In its budget proposal to Congress earlier this year, the Obama administration proposed an increase in arts spending of almost $8 million over FY2012.

The report accompanying the appropriations bill states that the Committee “values greatly the longstanding collaborative relationship between the NEA and the States. State Arts Agencies support the arts for communities at the grassroots level regardless of their geographic location, providing much of their funding to smaller organizations, community groups, and schools rather than well-established arts organizations. The Committee supports the continuation of this effective partnership and urges the NEA to work constructively with States in developing and implementing arts education programs and policies.”

Looking ahead to FY2013, the Committee identified several programs for recognition, including The Big Read, Challenge America, and Shakespeare in American Communities.

The Committee also used the report to express concern that the National Council on the Arts is “playing a diminished role and urges the NEA to fully engage the Council” with regard to policy and programmatic initiatives, in addition to providing counsel to the NEA on grants.

In its report, the Committee notes that it denied the NEA’s request for $3 million for expenses related to its expected move away from the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C. The Committee explains that it chose this course because the NEA failed to provide it with “a detailed justification” for the funds, including relocation costs. The Committee instructs the NEA to work with the General Services Administration to identify relocation options for the Committee to consider.

Interestingly, the report mentions that the NEA has operated without congressional authorization since 1993, and therefore the Committee encourages the NEA to work with Congress to renew its authorization.

Finally, the report remarks that FY2013 bill language favorable to NASAA’s members addressing grant award matching requirements and waiver procedures is the direct result of “extensive collaboration and consultation between the NEA and State Arts Agencies” last year. This is due in no small measure to the tremendous work of my predecessor and the terrific network of arts advocates throughout the country.

With the Committee’s approval, the bill will now go before the full House, where amendments making further cuts in funding for the arts are possible. Though no timetable has been set for consideration by the full House, NASAA will continue to provide updates on the bill’s progress.