Eye on Washington

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

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As we move into this year’s appropriations cycle and gear up for Arts Advocacy Day, April 16 & 17, it is important to note some immediate policy challenges in Washington. There are a number of threats to charitable tax incentives, including the President’s proposed cap at 28% on the charitable deduction. I participated in a Tax Hill Day organized by The Alliance for Charitable Reform and was joined in DC on March 21 by Tim Shields from McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, and Grace Grillet from the People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, PA. The day brought together nonprofits from across the sector – religious, educational, health and arts organizations – as well as family foundations – all advocating to preserve the charitable deduction. Status quo is an incentive for giving, and the cap would serve as a disincentive.  Everyone is encouraged to contact your Members of Congress to preserve charitable giving.

As we’ve seen in the news, the House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his FY 2013 Budget Resolution Blueprint titled “The Path to Prosperity.”  It is a nonbinding $3.5 trillion resolution that outlines spending and tax priorities for the appropriations process and tax-writing committees. House Republican leaders will bring the measure to the floor today, and it is expected to pass.

Included in the 215 page Budget Resolution is an inflammatory statement calling for private funding for the cultural agencies:

“Encourage Private Funding for Cultural Agencies.  Federal subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can no longer be justified.  The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of the Federal Government and they are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.  These agencies can raise funds from private-sector patrons, which will also free them from any risk of political interference.”

While the House Budget Resolution vote was nonbinding and the ultimate decisions will be made by the Appropriations Committee, the Budget Resolution is meant to set funding priorities for the year.  The Resolution would privatize our nation’s cultural agencies and does not accurately describe the reach and importance of federal arts grants to citizens and communities across the country.  TCG and the Performing Arts Alliance oppose this move to privatization.

It is important to begin communicating with your Members of Congress in both the House and Senate to remind them just how effectively NEA grants enable organizations to reach otherwise underserved communities. Let your Members know how critical a role an NEA grant plays in the ability to raise additional funding. 

We know that Americans from all walks of life, in communities large and small, benefit from the contributions of nonprofit performing arts organizations.  On any given day, 1.5 million Americans attend arts performances, usually with family or friends and in a variety of settings.  Federal government support helps ensure that individuals from all socioeconomic backgrounds and communities have the opportunity to encounter, participate in, or learn about the performing arts.  Public funding is essential to ensure continued accessibility, innovative community partnerships, and diverse programming.  This important stream of public funding for the arts does what strict budget outlays are designed to do – stimulate broad participation.

Please stay tuned to Advocacy developments through the year and please send messages to your Members of Congress. You are the constituents and your voices matter!

Laurie Baskin is TCG’s Director of Government and Education Programs.