Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MN Arts Advocacy Day - February 24!!!

If you're going please rsvp at www.mncitizensforthearts.org

Artists and Friends!

Please pay attention to what is going in YOUR arts community. For more info, please read the following.


Gov. Pawlenty Proposes Cutting Arts by Nearly 50%!

Gov. Pawlenty today announced a nearly 50 percent cut to the arts as part of a package of budget changes intended to balance the state's budget. A cut of this size would be devastating to an already reduced state arts budget. In 2003, the Governor proposed cutting 40% of arts funding, and we spent all that session fighting to reduce the cut to 32%. In subsequent sessions, we had managed to restore a small part of that funding. With this cut, the Governor is proposing to slash funding even lower than the arts had after losing a third of the funding in 2003.

The state currently appropriates $10.2 million to the State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, which go out in grants and services to all 87 Minnesota counties. The cuts would reduce that to $6.9M for 2010, and then only $3.4M for 2011. Another confusing angle in his budget recommendation is to turn the Minnesota State Arts Board, a state agency, into a "private non-profit," showing no state dollars going to the board after 2011. We can't tell what the point of that is, as it seems that the MSAB would still be largely spending public dollars. Such an action may conflict with the accountability and transparancy of the use of tax dollars.

In addition, while he shows revenue to the Amendment Arts and Culture Fund, he does not spend it. The Governor needs to explain how cutting this much funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils is NOT replacing one with the other. The Amendment says, "the dedicated money ... must supplement traditional sources of funding for these purposes and may not be used as a substitute." It may be that his intention is to replace current General Fund spending on the arts with Amendment dollars, but the budget does not seem to show that, except that the Arts Board is the only entity listed on the spending side of the Arts and Culture Fund budget, and there are zeroes in that column. It doesn't really make sense. We will continue to analyze the budget and get out more information as it becomes available.

The mood at the Capitol is dark. The deficit is huge, at $5B and rising, we don't know yet if and when federal stimulus dollars might arrive. The Governor is looking exclusively at cuts and shifts (pushing off paying bills by a year or two) to balance the budget. It is expected that eventually someone will propose tax increases of some kind to help balance the budget and reduce the size of cuts across the system, but that may be months away.

We thought last year was going to be the biggest year for arts advocacy in Minnesota history. Apparently, we were wrong! This year is even tougher. The Governor's budget proposal flies in the face of the clear message sent by voters in the passage of the Amendment: that we want MORE investment in the arts and culture, not less. To then additionally propose privatizing the State Arts Board is the opposite of the intent of voters. The state must spend the Amendment Arts and Culture fund on the arts and culture. The Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils, which make sure arts funding reaches all 87 counties through their grants and services, is a natural and accountable conduit for much of that funding.

It is expected that this will be a very tough fight, and we need everyone's help to make sure that arts funding for the next two years isn't slashed. That is why it's important for YOU to attend Arts Advocacy Day on Feb. 24. We've shown by passage of the Amendment that by working together we can do great things. See below for more details.

Sheila Smith
Executive Director
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts


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