The threat of budget cuts looms over the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities once again. An amendment offered by Representative Glenn Grothman, Republican of Wisconsin, proposes to slash funding by 15 percent—or $23 million to each agency—for the 2019 fiscal year.
In a House Rules Committee hearing on Tuesday night, Grothman voiced his support for President Trump’s plan to scrap both agencies, calling his proposed cuts a small step towards limiting government spending. The representative said that it isn’t the federal government’s responsibility to provide arts funding, arguing that arts programs should be sponsored by private organizations or local government.
In response to the Grothman’s plan, arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts have pointed out that the NEA’s modest $153 million budget makes up a mere 0.0004 percent of federal spending. The groups argue that even with its limited resources, the NEA’s investment in the arts contributes crucial resources to sustain America’s $764 billion culture industry, which supports 4.9 million jobs and makes up 4.2 percent of annual GDP.
In addition, opponents maintain that the proposed budget cuts will disproportionately affect residents of small towns and rural communities who would otherwise be excluded from the arts. It could also impact NEA-sponsored arts rehabilitation programs for US veterans.
In March, arts and humanities organizations breathed a collective sigh of relief when Congress passed a new spending bill that approved an unexpected $3 million increase in federal funding for the NEA and NEH, despite President Trump’s threats to cut funding for the agencies. Grothman’s proposed budget amendment would roll back that increase and then some, dealing a significant blow to arts and humanities organizations that depend on NEA and NEH funding to execute their programming.
The representative’s proposal will now go to the House for a vote this week. It could be voted on as early as Wednesday afternoon.