Monday, December 24, 2007

Congress Approves Historic Increase for NEA

Posted by Phil Whiteway
Four days ago, on Dec 20, something important happened—something I hope we all will applaud. In a lean budget year, the U. S. Congress passed the 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill which included a $20.3 million (16%) increase to the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single increase that the NEA has received in 30 years.

The 2008 NEA budget will now be $144.7 million, equal to the annual budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities for the first time since NEA funding was decimated in 1995 under the Contract with America. The Contract, which was released by the United States Republican Party during the 1994 Congressional election campaign, condemned the NEA for funding “obscene” art. The Contract was written by Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Richard Armey, Robert Walker, Bill Paxton, Jim Nussle and John Boehner. Only Boehner continues to serve in Congress today.

To put this funding in perspective, Congress now allocates $144.7 million to the NEA in support of every nonprofit arts organization in the nation. That amounts to approximately $0.47 per capita. The Congress allocates $420 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, amounting to approximately $1.38 per capita. The Arts Council of England currently invests approximately $687 million annually in support of Britain’s nonprofit arts organizations, or $11.45 per capita.

This historic increase of funding to the NEA reflects years of advocacy to restore the Endowment to the funding levels it once had in the mid-90s. Thanks go to all arts staffers and Board leaders throughout Virginia who have been working hard for more than a decade to convince Congress that the nonprofit arts in America are worthy of support.

We will be writing to our members of Congress to let them know how the added funding for the NEA will make a difference in Richmond and Virginia. If you support 47 cents of your annual tax dollars going to support all of the nonprofit art organizations in the United States, we encourage you to write your congressional representatives to thank them for this restoration of funds to the NEA.

--Phil Whiteway

1 comment:

Mr. Grant Mudge said...

Thanks for this post, Phil. Much credit for this restoration of funding must be given to Chairman Dana Gioia.

Of course, Mr. Gioia has issued an important reminder to the community of artists---that his term ends relatively soon, and that our advocacy will of course need to evolve.