May 26, 2000
The House Appropriations Committee failed to raise National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding from its present levels of $98 million to $115 million on May 25, 2000, an amendment proposed by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA). The amendment would have raised NEA funding amounts to levels currently proposed for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The measure failed, despite the support of Congressman Martin O. Sabo of Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, who serves on the Appropriations Committee.
The Interior Appropriations bill will now move to the House floor for full vote sometime in June, at which time Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT) is expected to offer an amendment to increase funding for the NEA above $98 million.
NEA Chairman Bill Ivey reported that in four years, the percentage of grants the agency has been able to approve has dropped from 34% of applications to an all-time low 21%. Although the agency has been able to increase the number of grants it awards, the amount of the average grant has dropped drastically from $55,000 to $25,000.
President Clinton had recommended an increase in funding for the NEA at $150 million in his annual budget. The House Budget Committee, which sets the Congressional blueprint for budgetary discretion, recommended an increase of $60 billion for overall spending, but Interior Appropriations suffered a decrease of $600 million. In fact, most domestic discretionary programs were decreased, whereas proposed defense spending rose by $13 million. Self-imposed spending restrictions in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 complicate Congress’ ability to increase the overall budget until FY2002, despite unprecedented levels of economic prosperity.
MCA will be poised to let you know if and when any precise amendments are offered to increase or decrease funding for the NEA. When the time comes, be prepared to contact your Member of Congress, both Senators Grams and Wellstone, and President Clinton to let them know that you support increases to the cultural endowments.