The legislative process is moving forward on consideration of the cuts to state government proposed by the Pawlenty administration to solve the state’s short term budget deficit problem for FY03. The good news is that Senate Finance Committees in the last two days have voted to restore some grant programs of various agencies that were proposed for cuts by the Pawlenty administration, including the $344,000 in funds that go to the Minnesota State Arts Board’s Individual Artist and Folk Arts programs. (However there is still a $40,000 cut to the MSAB’s administration budget). The bill they are considering will go to the Senate floor some time next week. However, the House has not yet taken any action, and because of the situation we are very pessimistic that the grant money will be restored in the end.
The worst thing we have to report is that this first round of cuts will not be our biggest problem this session. While these cuts are significant, we are afraid that greater cuts are undoubtedly coming as part of the need to resolve the state’s huge $4.5+ billion budget deficit. We are very saddened and dismayed by the way this first round of cuts have been proposed . As a part of a deficit reduction proposal, the administration has proposed cutting $344,000 in Minnesota State Arts Board (MSAB) grant funds that have not yet been awarded for this year. These grant funds would have been awarded in the individual artist and folk arts grants programs. Regional Arts Council funding was unaffected, as were all of the other MSAB program grants, because the grants have already been paid for this fiscal year.(Obviously, the state can’t cut funds that have already gone out the door). The Pawlenty administration is proposing taking money that is still left unspent for the fiscal year, and because the affected grants are usually made in the spring, they have not yet been spent. We are very disappointed in this proposal, because it unfairly targets one segment of the community for cuts simply because their grants are usually made at the end of the year.
The next round of budget cutting will begin when the short-term FY03 budget deficit has been solved. Unfortunately, not just individual artist and folk arts programs, but all other arts programs, will be at risk in the next round of budget cutting. This will begin on Feb. 18 when the Governor’s FY04-05 budget proposal will be delivered to the legislature. We will continue to monitor the situation and speak to legislators about these important programs in the coming days and weeks, and will do our best to keep you informed.
What can you do? These grantees are the first casualties of the retrenching of state government, and are examples of what will happen to the rest of the arts community soon if people don’t get involved, and communicate to their legislators how important the arts are to Minnesota.
JOIN US ON ARTS ADVOCACY DAY, FEBRUARY 27. Click here for information and sign up forms.
If you can’t come to advocacy day, call or write to your new legislators asking them to protect arts funding! You can get legislators’ phone numbers and addresses here.