NEA, NEH, CPB Advocates Making Noise Prior to President’s Budget Request

By Maddie Orton
Arts Correspondent

“The arts put America to work.” That’s the full-page ad advocacy group Americans for the Arts ran this week in the New York Post and The Hill. Anxieties among members of the nation’s arts and culture community have been high since January when The Hill reported details on the Trump administration’s considered program cuts to facilitate a reduction in federal spending.

Reportedly “the Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized” and “the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.”

NJTV, like other public television stations, is a recipient of CPB funds.

Representative Leonard Lance is Republican co-chair of both the Congressional Arts and Humanities caucuses.

“I do not think that Congress will ultimately support elimination of funds for these important programs regardless of what’s contained in the blueprint — the budget document submitted by the White House,” he said.

President Trump announced that “blueprint” would contain a proposed defense spending increase of $54 billion and that his priority would be public safety and national security.

“This defense spending increase will be offset and paid for by finding greater savings and efficiencies across the federal government,” Trump said.

But the president’s soon-to-be-released budget request is ultimately just that — a request. So the real power lies with the Appropriations Committees.

“I am concentrating on informing colleagues how important it is to continue funding for the arts and for the humanities,” Lance said.

Lance isn’t the only one making a case to maintain NEA, NEH and CPB funding.

“There will not be agency budget details for another several weeks, so right now we have no policy confirmation on this. … What we’re doing is preparing,” said Ann Marie Miller, director of advocacy and public policy for ArtPride New Jersey.

ArtPride New Jersey is a statewide arts advocacy organization. She says there’s been a push by organizations like hers, Americans for the Arts and others to use this time to educate lawmakers. A major priority this budget cycle is employment, so she’s working hard to show decision makers the connection between the arts and jobs.

“You appeal to that argument with facts about how many jobs the arts actually bring into our country and where they are. Whether they’re through the nonprofit sector or arts-related jobs in the for-profit sector,” Miller said.

The total cost of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and the Humanities combined is $741 million for fiscal year 2016. That’s less than 1 percent of the federal budget. But Lance says that money is key because it’s leveraged to get private dollars. He calls it a “multiplier effect.”

Other federally funded programs are no doubt facing the same concerns.

As we left Lance’s office today he had a conference room full of constituents in support of a different cause waiting to meet with him. In this moment of relative budgetary calm, grassroots advocates in all areas are seizing the opportunity to be heard.