Senate hope: Texas arts commission advocates 53-percent cut in its own budget tosurvive
The Texas Senate has passed its proposed 2012-13 budget, and while the Texas Commission for the Arts (TCA) originally anticipated that the bill would cut funding by a severe 50 percent, an additional 1.2 percent reduction was decided upon.
The Senate initially proposed a TCA budget of $3.7 million annually, which would have meant a little more than 50 percent cut from previous years. The budget measure includes a reduction of 12 TCA employees.
Still, the Senate budget spends around $12 billion more across the board than the House's budget, making the Senate's proposal the more favorable for arts advocates like Joe Wilson, president of the Texans for the Arts lobby.
"The 53 percent is unfortunately what we're advocating for," he tells CultureMap. The House's sharper proposed cuts threaten the very existence of the TCA, as it transfers an additional $3.5 million from the organization's budget to the Department of Aging and Disability Services.
Gary Gibbs, executive director of TCA agrees. He wouldn't describe the Senate's budget as a victory, preferring to call it an "improvement," adding, "I'm hopeful."
The additional 1.2 percent cut amounts to a relatively meager $30,000 removal of TCA funds. The new reduction applies to all state agencies that receive funds from the General Revenue/General Revenue Dedicated funds. Such agencies have been promised a refund of the 1.2 percent cut in the case that revenue collected by the comptroller exceeds estimates.
The 53 percent reduced budget is a familiar framework for the TCA.
"The Senate's budget takes everyone back three years ago, before we benefited from the demise of the cultural endowment fund," Wilson explains. "That was, in essence, a one-time boon. We'd love to see that reinstated sometime in the future when the economy is in a stronger state."
The future of Texas arts funding will be determined by the end of the month, after a joint conference committee from the House and Senate finalize the state's budget.
Explains Gibbs, "With the Senate passing its budget now, it looks more likely that the conference committee will meet their deadline," avoiding a dreaded special session. Following the conference committee, the budget will come under the veto scrutiny of Gov. Rick Perry.
"We're hoping it won't become a line item veto with Perry," says Wilson, citing Perry's State of the State address that vowed to suspend TCA funding for two years. The final day for Perry to sign or veto bills passed during the 82nd Regular Session is June 19.
Still, arts advocates are optimistic. "I think the Senate will prevail," Wilson says. "I'm sure we'll survive."
Learn what the implications in Houston of the TCA's demise would be here.