State gives arts coun­cil $8.3 mil­lion

Fund­ing agree­ment gives Cal­i­forna arts agency its big­gest bud­get in a decade.

Los Angeles Times - - CULTURE MONSTER - By Mike Boehm

Gov. Jerry Brown has a rep­u­ta­tion as a bud­get hawk who’ll pounce on stray spend­ing he thinks could leave Cal­i­for­nia’s state gov­ern­ment with IOUs that its cof­fers can’t cover — and he lived up to it Tues­day, strik­ing a deal with law­mak­ers that pares $2.2 bil­lion from the bud­get that the Leg­is­la­ture had passed the day be­fore.

But the hawk is spar­ing at least one mouse-sized spend­ing in­crease that will be­gin to re­store Cal­i­for­nia’s per­pet­u­ally with­ered fund­ing of the Cal­i­for­nia Arts Coun­cil, the state agency that makes grants to non­profit arts or­ga­ni­za­tions across the state.

The arts bud­get agreed to by the gover­nor and leg­is­la­tors au­tho­rizes $8.3 mil­lion from the state’s gen­eral fund — $2.1 mil­lion more than Brown had pro­posed for the 2015-16 state bud­get that takes ef­fect July 1.

“That’s a great win,” said Assem­bly­man Adrin Nazar­ian (D-Sher­man Oaks), who has pushed for im­proved arts fund­ing. “It’s im­por­tant now to fo­cus on spend­ing this money wisely and de­mon­strat­ing the qual­ity-of-life en­hance­ments that the arts can bring. Then we can make the case” for in­creases for the arts in com­ing years.

The arts coun­cil will re­main a speck in an over­all gen­eral fund bud­get of about $115.3 bil­lion.

Fac­tor­ing in ad­di­tional rev­enue — a $1.1-mil­lion fed­eral grant from the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts and $2.5 mil­lion in pro­jected do­na­tions from Cal­i­for­ni­ans who pay ex­tra for spe­cial arts-sup­porter li­cense plates or give via their state in­come tax re­turns — the arts coun­cil’s bud­get will reach $11.9 mil­lion, its big­gest bud­get since 2004, when Gov. Gray Davis and leg­isla­tive lead­ers made dra­co­nian cuts that es­sen­tially have re­mained in ef­fect since then.

The new nor­mal for an­nual gen­eral fund spend­ing on arts grants be­came about $1.1 mil­lion, the min­i­mum needed to draw a match­ing amount from the feds. That was down from a peak of about $30 mil­lion in the early 2000s.

The lin­ger­ing cuts have left Cal­i­for­nia chron­i­cally at or near the bot­tom in per­capita state arts grant fund­ing, spend­ing just a frac­tion of the na­tional av­er­age of $1.09 cited by the Na­tional Assem­bly of State Arts Agen­cies.

Two years ago Cal­i­for­nia al­lo­cated 18.5 cents per res­i­dent to the arts; that rose to 27 cents in the cur­rent bud­get year that ends June 30 — and will now grow to about 31 cents.

With the in­crease, the arts coun­cil will be au­tho­rized to have 19.5 po­si­tions in­stead of 17.5.

Per­haps the best news for Cal­i­for­nia’s arts ad­vo­cates is that $8.2 mil­lion will be­come a new f loor for an­nual arts spend­ing from the gen­eral fund — more than five times the pre­vi­ous base fund­ing of $1.1 mil­lion.

The arts coun­cil has man­aged on oc­ca­sion to se­cure ad­di­tional money from the gen­eral fund — in­clud­ing a $5-mil­lion in­crease for the fis­cal year that ends June 30. But those in­creases have been con­sid­ered one-time in­fu­sions. Go­ing for­ward, the arts coun­cil will be pen­ciled in for at least $8.3 mil­lion when an­nual state bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions be­gin, rather than $1.1 mil­lion.

Given its starved fund­ing over the last decade, the arts coun­cil has all but aban­doned gen­eral grants for ex­hi­bi­tions and per­for­mances. It fo­cuses in­stead on arts ed­u­ca­tion and ini­tia­tives that use the arts as a tool for neigh­bor­hood re­vi­tal­iza­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Grants to­taled $4.15 mil­lion to 341 re­cip­i­ents in 201314, the most re­cent year for which com­plete fig­ures are avail­able, but they’re ex­pected to reach $6.1 mil­lion in the cur­rent fis­cal year that ends June 30.

In 2013-14, the av­er­age grant was $12,155, rang­ing from $1,000 to help high school stu­dents com­pete in a na­tional po­etry recita­tion pro­gram to $75,000 each for public broad­cast­ing out­lets KOCE in Or­ange County-Los An­ge­les and KQED in San Fran­cisco, fund­ing their cov­er­age of the arts.

One of the grant cat­e­gories, to­tal­ing $592,000 in 201314, is sup­port for county and city gov­ern­ments’ arts agen­cies, which re­dis­tribute the money ac­cord­ing to their own pri­or­i­ties. The city of Los An­ge­les’ Depart­ment of Cul­tural Af­fairs and the Los An­ge­les County Arts Com­mis­sion re­ceived about $13,000 each.

The arts com­mis­sion is over­seen by an 11-mem­ber panel of po­lit­i­cally ap­pointed vol­un­teers. Nine are tapped by the gover­nor and one each by the Assem­bly speaker and Se­nate pres­i­dent.

Rich Pe­dron­celli AP

GOV. JERRY BROWN ap­proved Cal­i­for­nia Arts Coun­cil bud­get hike.

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