May 18, 2000
Yesterday, the Minnesota legislature passed overrides of the Governor’s line-item vetoes of arts projects. These included $1 million of bonding money for Lanesboro and $3 million of planning money for the Guthrie. After a first attempt failed to override, motions to reconsider each were separately presented and passed. Working together, the Lanesboro and the Guthrie successfully obtained overrides in both the House and Senate. In the House, the final votes on both Lanesboro and the Guthrie motions were 92 to 36 in favor of override. In the Senate, Lanesboro got 58 to 4 to override. The Senate’s vote on the Guthrie was 55 to 5 to override.
This event is important to the arts community for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that the legislature as a whole is strongly behind the arts. Second, that the argument as to whether the state should or should not fund arts projects in general has largely been won. Third, by not sitting silent when all arts projects were vetoed, our coalition showed that vetoes of arts projects cannot go unchallenged and that we are united. Fourth, these two projects got the votes they needed through a cooperative effort of greater Minnesota and metro legislators working together for the arts, showing what power can be gained when people across the state work together. In fact, these successes could not have happened without greater Minnesota legislators asserting that the Guthrie was important, and metro legislators insisting that the Lanesboro project was just as important. In fact these overrides were an affirmation that all Minnesotans have stake in both rural and metro arts. This has been the hallmark of MCA’s message for over 25 years. It was thrilling to see urban and rural legislators teaming together to make that point at the Capitol.
Our other friends did not fare as well this session. Of the many arts projects that were presented and discussed, only these two made it to the final step. Even though the state is experiencing historic surpluses, the legislature and governor spent most of session making the bonding bill smaller and smaller until all of these other arts projects were squeezed out. This means that the Austin Paramount Theatre, The Luverne Carnegie Cultural Center, the Minneapolis Shubert Theater, the U of M Showboat, the Woodbury Center for the Arts, and Roy Wilkens Auditorium did not receive state funding. Even worse, the conference committee on the bonding bill decided to take $1 million of previously approved building money from our friends at the Penumbra Theatre to help pay for the BCA building. Once the Governor signed the bonding bill, there was nothing we could do to protect that money.
In the end, we will look back at this session as a mixed bag. But we ended on a dramatic and positive note that will hopefully serve us well as we go into the next appropriations year and seek authorization of two more years of funding for the arts community.