NEA Edition: funding process, bipartisan Congressional support, and your voice

March 2, 2017

NEA funding process begins!

This week marked the first wave of action in Washington, D.C. on future funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Amidst the new Administration's proposal to deeply cut non-defense spending, leaders in Congress are already signaling that they will take a different path as they set FY18 funding levels. Read on for details and actions to take.

Pres. Trump releases topline budget; details still to come

On Monday, February 27, an initial outline of President Trump's FY18 budget was announced, with the promise to send Congress a more detailed budget on March 16, and a final full proposal in May. The President is proposing a $54 billion increase in defense spending, while recommending cutting that same amount from nondefense discretionary spending. While these topline budget numbers were announced, the plan did not specify a request related to NEA funding.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID02), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee with a record of supporting funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), has voiced skepticism about such drastic cuts to nondefense spending.  Rep. Simpson was quoted by Congressional Quarterly as saying, "I don't think you could pass any of the bills... There's a lot of members that have a lot of interest in a lot of these programs. There's more to our government than just defense."
While the President's ultimate budget request will influence the debate on the Hill, the funding levels for each federal agency will ultimately be set by Congress before final spending bills are passed and handed back to the President for his signature.

House talks begin with bipartisan NEA support, on the record

Congressional action on FY18 funding levels for the NEA began on February 28 as the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee heard testimony from members of Congress regarding programs funded through the Interior Appropriations bill, which covers a broad territory, from sage grouse conservation to wildfire suppression. Given the wide variety of issues at hand, it is significant that 5 of the 19 members testifying -- including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY25), who co-chairs the Congressional Arts Caucus, Rep. David Price (D-NC04), Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY26), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX18), and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC12) -- spoke up in support of the NEA and NEH, praising both agencies' impact in communities across the country, and the NEA's Healing Arts program for wounded veterans.  Arts Caucus co-chair Leonard Lance (R-NJ-07) submitted a statement for the record in support of the NEA and NEH, saying, "Art is now, has been, and will always be a part of our Nation's fabric."
Rep. Price urged the subcommittee to consider the nationwide impact of the cultural agencies, to which Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA42) responded, "As you know, there's always been bipartisan support for the
se programs and I suspect that will be in the future, too." Under Chairman Calvert's leadership last year, the Interior Appropriations Committee approved a $2 million increase in funding for the NEA.
(Photographed: Ken Calvert, Chairman of House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee)


Your next steps

This is just the beginning of the funding process, and ongoing advocacy will be needed in a year when every vote will matter. Current bipartisan support on the Hill is the result of years of effort to help Congress understand the impact of NEA grants to orchestras and the full array of NEA support in states nationwide. As the funding committees in both the House and Senate take next steps throughout this spring, the League will keep you informed of key moments to raise your voice in coordination with the broader community of arts advocates. In the meantime, here's a reminder of the action steps that lay the groundwork for more action to come:

  • Home Meetings: See our calendar of opportunities for when to meet your members of Congress in their home districts and states, and invite them to see your orchestra's value to your community first-hand. 
  • Speak Up and Stay Tuned: The League has an open online campaign on NEA funding. We will notify you with action alerts that let you know of pivotal moments to make your voice heard. In the meantime, please use the key messages and background to inform your ongoing conversations with your elected officials. The most effective advocacy is personalized and happens long before a vote is taken.
  • Plan for Arts Advocacy Day: Our advocacy strategies are shaped in close partnership with the broader national arts and nonprofit communities. The League is once again serving as a national partner of National Arts Advocacy Day, which will take place this year on March 21, 2017. The League helps to craft the policy briefs on a wide range of issues, and our D.C. staff has a direct hand in training the hundreds of advocates that will visit their elected officials on Capitol Hill. We've penned a letter to Congress summarizing our key policy asks, and we'll be sending you an alert about how you can join in Arts Advocacy Day from home.