Government Shutdown Ends, Advocacy Work Continues

by Laurie Baskin

in Advocacy

As has been widely reported, the federal government shutdown is over. The President signed a Bill late last night that was proposed in the Senate and passed by both houses to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. It is only a temporary solution, though, since the Bill keeps the government open through January 15 and raises the debt ceiling through February 7. Congress is now instructed to convene a Conference Committee to come to an agreement on a spending plan for the remainder of FY14 by mid-December. There are still big differences in priorities and approach and advocacy work will need to remain a priority. We’ll need participation in great numbers from the field in order to properly advocate for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, maintain support for arts education and preserve incentives for charitable giving, including the charitable deduction.

Here is the status of NEA funding: The current, FY13 NEA appropriation is approximately $138 million. On July 22, the House Appropriations Committee released its FY14 interior appropriations bill allotting $75 million for the NEA. This amount is 49% less than the President’s recommendation of approximately $154.5 million. On August 1, the Senate Committee on Appropriations released its draft interior bill for FY14 restoring the NEA’s funding back to the President’s level of $154.5 million.

On the arts education appropriations front, the U.S. Department of Education’s FY13 appropriation for the Arts in Education program is $23.648 million, reflecting a standard sequester reduction of 5% from the FY12 funding level. The President’s FY14 budget again zeros out the Arts in Education program, in favor of a new pool of resources titled “Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-Rounded Education.” The House budget would eliminate the Arts in Education program entirely. In July, the Senate appropriations committee once again signaled strong support for maintaining the program, with a recommendation for $27 million in FY14 funding. Arts in Education advocates continue to ask Congress to maintain the distinct Arts in Education program at a level of $30 million for FY14.

Tax reform in Congress is continuing to take shape.  Last year we successfully worked to preserve the charitable deduction during any Fiscal Cliff negotiations heading into the end of the year, but we have more work to do.  For the past few years, the nonprofit sector has been on the chopping block as Washington hunts for revenue.  In the next two months, we’re expecting to see comprehensive legislation that re-writes the tax code, at which point our continued efforts to protect private giving incentives becomes even more crucial.  Regardless of how this bill treats the charitable deduction, we must continue our work to educate policymakers on the importance of charitable giving and how it touches each and every one of their constituents.

Decisions will be made in Washington that will affect the theatre field. TCG will keep you informed and we urge your participation when you receive Action Alerts from the Performing Arts Alliance.

Laurie Baskin is TCG’s Director of Research, Policy & Collective Action.