Restore full state aid for the arts

March 30, 2001|By Anthony W. Deering and George A. Roche

WE'RE FORTUNATE to live in a state with a wealth of diverse and treasured assets.

We have a rich blend of natural resources, a high-quality work force, an excellent transportation system, an esteemed higher education system, successful sports franchises and, importantly, a cherished and revered group of arts institutions.

The arts are one of the economic engines in our state that have helped strengthen our economy and stimulate the growth we've experienced in recent years. While many of the benefits of the arts are not easily measured, their positive effects on the economy are significant.

According to the Department of Business and Economic Development, arts organizations create more than 17,000 jobs in our state, trigger more than $340 million in direct spending, generate a total economic impact of $726 million and provide $27 million in state and local taxes.

Arts organizations in Maryland rely on a delicate mix of earned revenues, private support from corporations and individuals, foundations and the government to fund their operations. They are shining examples of public-private partnerships.

To help leverage private support and promote fiscal stability, a broad group of political, business and arts leaders from around the state adopted a goal during the mid-1980s of providing state funding equal to 10 percent of arts organizations' budgets. That goal has never been achieved. We reached slightly more than 9 percent in the early 1990s, but then slipped to 7 percent.

Two years ago, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and the General Assembly's budget leaders showed leadership by embracing a plan to achieve the 10 percent by phasing in the increase over three years.

The governor provided the necessary funding in 1999 and 2000 consistent with the "8/9/10% Plus for the Arts" plan. The strong support of the legislative leadership, in particular Sens. Barbara Hoffman, a Baltimore City Democrat, and Robert Neall, a Baltimore County Republican, and Democratic Dels. Howard P. Rawlings of Baltimore City and Nancy Kopp of Montgomery County, has been crucial to the success of the arts initiative.

Heading into the 2001 legislative session, the arts community was poised to finally realize its long-sought goal of 10 percent funding. Surprisingly, though, the funding was omitted from the budget.

But there's still time for the governor to put the $2 million that's necessary into a supplemental budget. This increase would bring the arts budget to about $16 million, which is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state's total $21 billion budget and is a little more than just $3 for every person in the state.

We applaud Mr. Glendening for his efforts to strengthen the state budget in other areas, and we appreciate the many other fiscal demands facing the state.

But we encourage him to seize this opportunity now to fund the arts at 10 percent. This is a small investment that will provide exponential returns to the arts community, our schoolchildren, business community and to all Maryland citizens.

Anthony W. Deering is chairman and chief executive officer of the Rouse Co., and George A. Roche is chairman of the board and president of T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. Frank P. Bramble, chairman of Allfirst Financial Inc., contributed to this article.

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