April 26, 2001
As we have been reporting for the last month, there is trouble for the arts in the Minnesota House. Last night our worst fears came true.
Despite the valiant efforts of long time arts friends Rep. Jim Rhodes (R-St. Louis Park) and Rep. Phyllis Kahn (D-Mpls.), we were unable to overcome the powerful chair of the committee, Rep. Phil Krinkie (R-Shoreview) who cut $10 million out of the arts appropriation. The cut comes specifically out of the MN State Arts Board grant programs, which include the following: Arts in Education, Folk Arts, Arts Across Minnesota, General Operating Support and Formula Funds, Presenter Assistance, Arts Midwest, and individual artist support programs. In addition, Rep. Krinkie added language to the bill that would prevent any organization from receiving more than $100,000 per year in grants, even if it is from different programs with different purposes.
MCA VIGOROUSLY OPPOSED ALL OF THESE ACTIONS. Last night, as in past years when the Regional Arts Councils or when arts organizations have been attacked, MCA stood up to protect the entire statewide arts community. An attack against any member of our coalition is an attack against our entire coalition. These cuts must not be allowed to stand.
Most frustrating of all, at nearly midnight after hearings that had been going on all day, an unsuccessful attempt was made by Rep. Rhodes to restore $5M of the $10M cut. Because the House had set artificially low spending targets for this committee Rep. Rhodes was forced to move to take money away from other parts of the bill that had strong support of committee members including many longtime friends of the arts. Put in the impossible position of supporting either one or the other very important programs, they couldn’t support Rep. Rhodes motion and it failed.
And the irony is that the state is experiencing yet another budget surplus.
WHAT MCA IS DOING TODAY: As we write this, the action of this committee is not yet 12 hours old. We are meeting with Rep. Rhodes and with Republican and Democratic leadership in the House and conferring with our other arts hero Sen. Richard Cohen (D-St. Paul). After we’ve completed conversations with key legislators we will get back to you about our next steps.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING: MCA’s massive postcard campaign went out in the mail yesterday and it has become even more important now. We still have several thousand postcards available in the office for you to send to arts supporters. Please call our office to get them. And call your House member to complain about this cut! We expect the State Government Finance Bill to be heard in the Ways and Means Committee and on the House floor sometime next week. Later this afternoon and Friday we’ll sort out what our next steps must be to restore the money. Pay attention to alerts because action will now happen on a daily basis.
AT LEAST WE’RE DOING BETTER IN THE SENATE:
Sen. Cohen has included a $1.5M increase in his bill, split 50-50 between the Regional Arts Councils and Minnesota State Arts Board grants. This will be helpful to us when we reach the conference committee, but we must work to restore the cuts made in the House first.