Editorial: State budget proposals ignore reality, responsibility State Legislature should continue arts funding
Gloomy news is trickling down from Florida’s center of power in Tallahassee for those who work in or enjoy the benefits of the arts.
The State Senate has proposed no funding for the arts in the next budget. The somewhat more generous State House of Representatives has proposed a $1 million reduction in funding for the arts statewide.
In the absence of major change, the end result of the budgeting process is likely to be somewhere between the two proposals. In the case of one, the other or a compromise midway between the two proposals being ratified, the end result would be devastating to the cultural arts in Florida. The State would also lose revenue and cripple one of the best returns on investment it has.
The positions represent an abdication of responsibility and departure from reality on the part of legislators.
Arts funding is a convenient scapegoat at budget time. It is portrayed as being extraneous and frivolous and the total expenditure for it is often exaggerated. After all, when the State of Florida is cash-strapped to pay for essential services, the arts make a convenient target for cuts.
But that approach ignores serious economic reality. Numbers paint a very different picture. There are 88,326 full-time arts jobs throughout the state. Arts activities generate $3.1 billion in local economic activity annually; and arts organizations deliver $446.5 million in local and state government revenue.
These numbers have been generated despite the fact that Florida invests only minimally in the arts. In recent years, state arts funding has been cut by more than 80 percent and Florida now ranks 49th nationally in state appropriations for its arts
and cultural resources — investing only 14 cents per Floridian.
Despite that minimal investment, the arts in Florida have continued to capture attention and stimulate economic and cultural development. Too many organizations and institutions have already been lost or limited because of funding cuts, severely restricting the ability of the arts sector to continue attracting tourists and generating revenue for state and local government.
It is smart business to invest modest state dollars in the arts when the returns are enormous: more tax revenue generated; more tourism; and more businesses staying or relocating to a state with vibrant arts and entertainment assets.
Completely setting aside the philosophical debate about government funding of the arts and particularly in a difficult budget era, support for the arts makes good financial sense.
The proposed fatal reduction or elimination of arts funding is economically irresponsible and a mockery of the reality of the benefits the arts bring to Florida and to her individual communities.
Too many times government at all levels targets the arts for proposed budget cuts because it is more politically expedient than it is to make hard decision and to eliminate politically-motivated waste and bureaucracy.
Each time this happens, it is a shame that it seems that ten responsible, apolitical members of the pubic with common sense and a decent education could, if asked, trim the budget elsewhere in a way that has less devastating results on culture, community – and the economic development – of the State of Florida.
It’s not just a shame that the Florida Legislature seems unable to do that. It’s a damn shame.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Outraged by this? Then send an email to the following legislators and let them know how you feel. Let’s all work together to prevent this and save South Florida’s Arts Programs. Act now!
FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE APPROPRIATIONS LEADERSHIP
House Speaker: Larry Cretul – firstname.lastname@example.org
House Appropriations Chairman: David Rivera – email@example.com
Senate President: Jeff Atwater – firstname.lastname@example.org
Chairman, Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means: JD Alexander – email@example.com
Transportation & Economic Development Appropriations Committee: Alex Diaz de la Portilla – firstname.lastname@example.org (Miami-Dade Member)
FLORIDA HOUSE TRANSPORTATION & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
Esteban Bovo – email@example.com (Miami-Dade Member)