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Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Jan Brewer (Arizona), Rick Scott (Florida) and Nikki Haley (South Carolina)
Anti-arts governors, clockwise from upper left, Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Jan Brewer (Arizona), Rick Scott (Florida) and Nikki Haley (South Carolina)

STATES CUT ARTS FUNDING

July 1, 2011

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It’s getting to be a habit with governors and state legislatures -- cutting arts funding on the state level. According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, cuts have been proposed for 35 states for fiscal year 2012. Though the battle goes on, the tide is turning against the arts among politicians on the state level, especially in Tea Party strongholds.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker moved to cut state arts funding by 73 percent, and eliminate the state percent for art program. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has eliminated funding for the Arizona Commission for the Arts, while Florida Governor Rick Scott has proposed no grant funding for the state division of cultural affairs. Often the battle pits the arts against other worthy recipients of government funding. In Texas, one proposal sought to eliminate arts funding and shift the money to aging and disability services.

The New Jersey legislature is currently battling over a proposal to cut $4.3 million in funding for state cultural projects. Typically, some big institutions are funded via line items in the general budget. In New Jersey, these include the Battleship New Jersey ($1.7 million), the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton ($375,000) and the Newark Museum ($2.1 million). Now, lawmakers are advocating that the money for those institutions instead be taken from the $16 million budget of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Needless to say, the proposal ignores the fact that the first two institutions are not arts organizations.

In better news, South Carolina lawmakers overrode GOP Governor Nikki Haley’s veto of the state’s Art Commission yesterday. Arguing that arts programs should be funded by the private sector, the first-term governor had planned to eliminate the $2 million commission from the state’s $6 billion overall budget. But the legislative support for the arts -- as well as public television and education -- was resounding at a final vote of 105-8. The new budget goes into effect today.

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