Following the Memorial Day recess, Congress returned to session with a full agenda of must-pass bills it would like to tackle. Perhaps indicative of this full slate, the work period began with an announcement from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that most of the August recess would be canceled to allow the Senate more time in Washington. Whether or not the leader follows through on this threat, it is clear that the Republicans in Congress and President Trump have an ambitious list of policy priorities they hope to achieve before the midterm elections this fall.
Among the items on that list is a reauthorization of the farm bill, legislation funding a border wall and, perhaps of highest priority to us as arts advocates, legislation funding the government for fiscal year 2019. With funding set to expire on September 30, House and Senate committees are hoping to pass legislation before the deadline that fully funds the government for the next year (rather than resorting to a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown).
A significant milestone in that effort was reached yesterday when the Senate Appropriations Committee passed legislation proposing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) of $155 million. This follows passage of the bill in the House Appropriations Committee last week (also at $155 million). Should that number be enacted, it would represent a $2 million increase over current levels and an overall increase of $7 million since President Trump took office. Also significant to state arts agencies, the legislation reaffirms support of the federal-state partnership that directs 40% of NEA grant dollars to state and regional arts organizations.
Congress’s strong bipartisan support for the NEA in the last year and a half continues to validate the dedicated work of state arts agencies and our colleagues, as you demonstrate the powerful impact federal funding for the arts is having on local communities.
In the weeks and months ahead, NASAA will continue to monitor developments and keep you apprised of any opportunities to further engage your elected officials.