Arts organizations worried that state funding may be cut

January 06, 1991|By Eric Siegel

A year ago, arts advocates from around Maryland were imbued with a sense of mission as they lobbied members of the General Assembly to approve a $2.4 million increase in state arts funding proposed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

This year, they are filled with a mixture of hope and apprehension about whether that hard-fought increase, which allowed the state to fund nearly 10 percent of the operating costs of qualifying organizations, will be sustained during a time of economic decline.

"We are hoping basically to hold the increase that we got last year," says Sue Hess, chairwoman of Maryland Citizens for the Arts, the statewide lobbying group that made the 1990 boost its cause celebre.

A spokesman for the state Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning said last week that the amount Governor Schaefer would recommend for the Maryland State Arts Council was "still in the thinking stage." The governor will unveil his fiscal 1992 budget on Jan. 16.

Noting that "all agencies are expected not to get as much as much money," he said it was "iffy" whether funding of the MSAC, which last year funneled $5.6 million in aid to arts organizations, would be maintained at the same level.

"I doubt there would be more money," he said. "I'd think they'd be lucky to get the same."

Given the increases in expenditures of many arts organizations, analysts figure arts funding would have to increase about 10 percent over last year to maintain the same percentage of state support. But with the state scrambling to find money for vital social services, even the staunchest arts supporters don't expect that to happen.

In fact, a number of states faced with financial crises have already imposed steep cuts in arts funding. They include Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Any recommendation made this year by Governor Schaefer could, of course, be cut by the General Assembly but observers don't see that happening.

"I think there's enough [legislative] support for whatever the governor recommends," says Sen Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and that chamber's representative on the state arts council. "What that figure will be, I don't know."

The funding picture is further clouded because of changes in how the National Endowment for the Arts is awarding its money this year. Because of new, congressionally mandated funding formulas that divert money from the NEA to the states, the state arts council will receive an additional $90,000 from the NEA.

But officials don't expect that money, which would raise to nearly $500,000 the amount given to Maryland by the NEA, to offset the 10 percent reduction in funds the endowment channels directly to organizations.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.