Friday, April 17, 2009


Posted by the Arts Council of New Orleans:

As advocates for the cultural economy of our state and of the arts, the Arts Council of New Orleans understands that budget cuts are necessary during difficult economic times. However, investing in Louisiana’s cultural economy makes dollars and sense and is vital to our economic well-being and to the spirit of our people. Please read the following and take action. Thank you!

In his state budget request for the next fiscal year, Governor Jindal has made devastating cuts to state arts funding. Of critical concern to arts providers and communities across the state is the Governor’s severe cut to the Decentralized Arts Funding Program (83% cut, $2.4 million reduction). This program uniquely distributes funding to every parish in the state on a per capita basis, ensuring not only that arts and cultural activities happen in every parish, but that they impact diverse and underserved populations throughout the state. Governor Jindal has also cut the Statewide Art Grants Program by 31%, halved folklife funding, and eliminated funding for artist fellowships, the Percent for Art Program (public art), and several staff positions at the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Overall, state support for the arts would fall from $7 million to $2.4 million if these cuts are enacted.
The Louisiana Legislature's House Appropriations Committee is currently reviewing Jindal’s budget for the 2009/2010 fiscal year, including the proposed cuts, and it will recommend a budget which will be voted on by the entire Legislature, first by the House of Representatives, then by the Senate. (Legislators tend to vote with Committee decisions). The House Appropriations Committee met on April 2, 2009 to begin discussing the proposed state arts budget cuts. At that meeting, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu testified and urged lawmakers to look for ways to restore funding for the arts and for other programs which fall under his purview - the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Meetings of the House Appropriation Committee continue in April to discuss all areas of the state budget.
When the administration asked the Lt. Governor to detail how he would respond to various budget cut proposals, Landrieu based his recommendations on a performance-based calculation which measured which programs were most efficient and produced the best return on investment. Under that review, the Louisiana Decentralized Arts Funding program would have taken a $200,000 cut instead of the Governor’s $2.4 million cut.

The proposed cuts will be devastating to Louisiana's cultural economy which accounts for 144,000 jobs (7.6% of the state's employment base) and was cited in a 2003 economic impact study as being the fastest-growing sector in the state's economy. The cultural economy is Louisiana’s second largest industry. Investing in the arts is an essential catalyst for this industry and produces significant revenue for our state:
Every $1 invested in Louisiana’s nonprofit arts and cultural industry generates $6 in revenue for the state. State arts funding supports the amazing array of creativity and culture in Louisiana – it is this wealth of culture that fuels tourism. As Lt. Governor Landrieu has stated, “Louisiana has economic assets of which other states can only dream: a deeply rooted, authentic culture that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors.” Investing in the cultural economy enables our world-renown music, food and art to be Louisiana’s most prominent export. Our state’s unique cultural offerings are also what draw many people to live and work here. Governor’s Jindal’s proposed cuts will devastate a $10 billion growth industry.
Realizing Louisiana’s cultural wealth and its potential to become an even greater renewable, clean industry for the state, Lt. Governor Landrieu launched the Cultural Economy Initiative in 2004 to investigate this potential. National experts were commissioned to study the role that art and culture play in the state’s economic development. The study’s report revealed that, due to the depth of its cultural assets, Louisiana could lead the nation in cultural economic development. It took a significant investment of state dollars to launch this initiative and to create the programs and legislation that now exist to encourage the growth of the cultural economy. Governor Jindal’s proposed cuts will severely undermine this investment and the huge statewide momentum it has created. Cultural workers and artists throughout the state will lose jobs; the work of arts organizations, community groups, libraries and schools which create a solid foundation for the cultural economy will be leveled. Now more than ever, it is crucial to Louisiana’s economic future for the state to support the work and the workforce of the cultural economy.
In addition to the economic returns of investing in the cultural sector, study after study has proven that a sustained, strategic investment in this sector also generates substantial social and educational returns. The events and programs made possible by state arts funding not only attract audiences, support jobs, and generate government revenue, they also strengthen our communities and improve the quality of life for our citizens. Arts funding supports programs that address critical social needs - the need to teach children positive life skills and the need to increase student learning in all subjects. Arts funding enables programs that inspire in our citizens creativity, self-esteem, and an appreciation of diversity. A citizenry with these attributes is priceless – it makes for safer, healthier communities. Arts and cultural activities revitalize towns and neighborhoods and spur business development and entrepreneurship. Arts funding enables community groups and arts providers to leverage corporate, foundation, and private dollars needed to sustain their positive work. And, the arts have a broad base of support in Louisiana – citizens in urban, small-town, and rural Louisiana thrive on celebrating our state’s artistry and unique heritage. Our arts and culture bring constant, positive attention to our state and sustain the spirit of our people through hard times.

The severe budget cuts to arts funding for the coming fiscal year would devastate two of Louisiana’s most successful programs which have a huge impact throughout the state: The Decentralized Arts Funding Program, slated for an 83% cut and the Statewide Arts Grants Program, slated for a 31% cut. (These are just two of many arts programs that would suffer from the proposed cuts).
The Decentralized Arts Funding Program – proposed cut of $2,468,938 or 83%
• Fiscal impact to the state tax base - $14.8 million
• 424 grants awarded in 2008 to all parishes
• Funding mechanism with equitable distribution statewide
• More than 3.3 million citizens and visitors served
• Many who benefit are from underserved populations
• Organizations served are typically unable to access other funding; without this seed funding their community-based cultural programs would die
• Program creates jobs in the cultural economy as well as supplements the work of schools, libraries, and community organizations across the state
Statewide Arts Grants Program – proposed cut of $798,628 or 31%
• Loss of $798,628 would decrease dollars returned to the state by $4.8 million
• Program contributes $6 dollars to state coffers for every $1 invested
• Supports Arts Councils and arts organizations throughout the state that provide direct services and programs to regional constituents
• Provides much-needed support to accomplished Louisiana artists
• Provides audiences of 5.4 million citizens and visitors each year
• Empowers entrepreneurial capacity in the cultural workforce
• Nonprofit arts sector creates over 18,000 of the jobs within the cultural economy
• Strategic support of the nonprofit arts sector is critical to the workforce and the arts industry

􀂉 After a successful statewide email campaign (over 73,450 emails were sent to legislators), it’s now important to have personal contact with legislators, especially with members of the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. If you know anyone on these committees, please contact them immediately and let them know how important it is to you and to your community that state arts funding is preserved. A phone conversation or a meeting with a legislator in their district office would be ideal. This should be done very soon - the legislative session begins on April 27th and legislators will be heading to Baton Rouge. Please call the Arts Council of New Orleans (523-1465) if you would like to discuss talking points with a staff member. (See below for pertinent legislative committee lists; please go to the Louisiana Legislature web site for contact information for legislators).

􀂉 Please consider attending the Appropriations Committee hearing on April 23rd at the State Capitol. The hearing will include public testimony in support of arts and culture and will be held in Hearing Room 5 in the basement of the State Capitol. The Louisiana Partnership for the Arts welcomes supporters to attend and asks all who attend to wear something yellow.

􀂉 Help create a buzz about the serious funding cuts we are facing, their impact, and the need for advocacy. Write letters to the editor of newspapers and media publications; post information on your web site; talk about this at meetings, public panels, art gatherings, and social events. Blog it!

􀂉 Please mark your calendar and plan to attend Arts Advocacy Day in Baton Rouge on May 20, 2009.

􀂉 Stay tuned to your email and to the Arts Council of New Orleans web site. We’ll keep you posted and will provide further information on advocacy events and news.
Here is a thumbnail sketch of the upcoming political process regarding the 2009/2010 state budget (HB-1):
Having already heard testimony from Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu on April 2, 2009, the
House Appropriations Committee will hear public testimony on April 23rd regarding the
importance of state funding for arts and culture. Following the budget hearings, the House Appropriations Committee will come up with a budget which it will present to the House floor for discussion. The entire House will debate the budget (HB-1), make any further amendments, and vote to approve the budget. This House budget will then go to the Senate Finance Committee, probably in late May, for that Committee to hold hearings, debate, possibly make amendments, and send its budget to the Senate floor for discussion. After the entire Senate’s input (including any further amendments), the Senate will approve a budget that will be sent back to the House. If the House accepts it, the budget will have final legislative approval and will go to the Governor for signature. The Governor has line item veto power. If the House does not approve the Senate’s version of the budget bill, it would go to the Conference Committee which would attempt to work out differences and would hammer out a final budget. That budget would go back to the House and Senate for approval and then to the Governor for signature.
If the Governor vetoes the budget, there is one last resort - the budget bill would go back to both houses of the legislature, and, if 2/3’s of both houses approved it, the bill would be enacted, overriding the Governor’s veto. The budget approval process could continue into late June but the budget must be finalized by the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, July 1, 2009.

Your contact with legislators and attendance at advocacy events matters. The Arts Council of New Orleans appreciates your participation in this critical advocacy effort. We must work together to save our arts and culture!

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