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Editorial: Jindal continues to cut arts funding

Last Modified: Friday, June 28, 2013 9:39 AM

The decision sailed under most folks’ radar, but it has serious implications.

With a stroke of his pen, Gov. Bobby Jindal cut $500,000 from state funding for the arts. While it’s not as cruel as Jindal’s veto of disability programs and services, it continues an unsettling trend.

Since taking over as governor six years ago, Jindal has cut arts funding for the entire state by more than 170 percent, from $5.2 million to $1.9 million for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year.

State lawmakers appropriated the extra $500,000 in this year’s budget, only to see it axed by the governor. Jindal said his reason for wielding the veto pen was that “this activity has been adequately funded in the budget.”

He’ll get plenty of arguments on that one. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, whose office oversees culture and tourism, said the money that was cut helps fund festivals and artistic endeavors.

“It is clearly something the Legislature felt was important enough to create jobs and stimulate the economy,” he told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

Dardenne finds it illogical that Jindal made the $500,000 cut which the lieutenant governor said affects arts programs in nearly every parish in the state while adding $200,000 to help fund Baton Rouge’s Bayou Country Superfest that is held on a weekend in May. That certainly falls under the heading of misplaced priorities.

Northeast Louisiana Arts Council CEO Tommy Usrey said the governor’s arts cuts over the past six years have caused his agency to hit rock bottom and that the $500,000 appropriations “was a chance to begin the climb back up.”

The $500,000 would have made it possible to increase Southwest Louisiana’s art grants by 33 percent over last year’s allocation, according to Erica McCreedy, executive director of the Arts and Humanities Council of Southwest Louisiana.

“Southwest Louisiana has a vibrant arts community but our artists, symphony, theaters, musicians and ballets are running a business and must rely on support from the state,” McCreedy said. “We cannot afford to sit by quietly when those in power think that the arts are already adequately funded or that the arts should only be privately funded. The Governor’s statement that the arts are already adequately funded is backwards. It is a narrow view that ignores the tangible economic value of the cultural economy.’’

She notes there is a $9 return for every $1 invested in the arts and said that art funding fuels a power economic engine.

“The arts are a cornerstone of tourism with Calcasieu (Parish) receiving well over $300 million from tourism spending last year,” McCreedy said. “On average, residents spend $26 in the community when they attend an arts event, and our festivals and concerts are not cheap — arts organizations spend money locally on marketing, sound equipment, venue rentals, etc. ...

“Communities with thriving economies are also thriving in the arts. The connection is visceral and natural.”

The $500,000 amounts to .00002 percent of the state’s $25 billion budget. Put another way, that’s $5 out of every $250,000 the state spends.

Given that number and the return that an investment in the arts produces, it makes the governor’s veto of the money difficult to defend.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

Posted By: Amie Herbert On: 6/28/2013

Title: Well done!

Thank you, American Press! You all really 'get it!'

Posted By: Matt Young On: 6/28/2013

Title: Very well stated!

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