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Now that the flurry of bill activity is over for the moment, the Legislature will be turning its attention back to the Budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2007. With a continuing budget shortfall of some magnitude still facing the state (no one is quite sure of the amount since the Governor recently announced a $700 million dollar hole he hadn’t seen before), it’s time to revisit some of the key priorities of the state.
We’ve asked one of Speak Out California’s newest Board members, Dyanne Cano, to post her thoughts in her capacity as an expert on service-learning and after-school programs in the LA area. In that realm she observes,
not surprisingly, that while California boasts of a huge creative industry supplying billions to our economy,our political leaders show a complete lack of vision when it comes to funding art programs in this state.

Here are her comments:
For the past 30 years, the California Arts Council’s mission is “to advance California through the arts and creativity.” However, CAC’s funding has been cut dramatically over the last few years (from $ 32 million in 2001 to $1 million in 2004 at its lowest–a 97% budget cut in just three years). According to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, California now ranks the lowest among the 50 states in arts funding. Mississippi, the District of Columbia and Guam give more per person to the arts; California gives a mere three cents per person.
Why is increased funding for CAC important? In a 2006 op-ed piece for the San Fransico Chronicle, Alma Robinson, Executive Director of California Lawyers for the Arts, wrote, “Since 2003, when the state’s General Fund allocation for the California Arts Council was reduced to $1.1 million, we lost most of the funding for arts education, artists’ residencies and fellowships, the arts touring program and grants for the state’s diverse arts organizations — from the mini to the major. Many arts presenters, community arts programs, local arts councils and arts-service organizations are on life support.”
To help increase CAC’s budget from its current budget of $5.1 million and to protect it from further cuts, there are ways you can tell your representatives that the arts do matter.

The California legislature has had two opportunities this year to recognize the value of art in California and increase funding so all Californians can have access to arts programs. Legislatively, we’ll have to wait until next year, but there is still an opportunity to make it happen this year in the coming budget negotiations. Here’s where we are today:
Assemblymember Betty Karnette (D- Long Beach), introduced AB 1365, a bill that requires 20% of state sales and use tax revenues derived from the sales of art dealers, art auctioneers, and certain other business entities to be deposited in the State Treasury for allocation to the California Art Council. This will create a fund of about $32 million!
Although this measure would not create a new tax, but rather identify and specify where existing dollars collected would go, it wasn’t able to get out of the Appropriations Committee before the deadline and won’t be heard this year. We appreciate that Assemblymember Karnette brought the bill forward and we hope she’ll try again next year.
In the meantime, the second possible opportunity is to increase the California Arts Council budget for the coming fiscal year starting July 1st. Putting this in perspective, it is important to note that California is in its third year spending 3 cents per capita from the general fund for the Arts. It is time to seize this opportunity to articulate the value of art and to insist on ART FOR ALL!
Visit the California Arts Action Center and e-mail your legislators. Urge your Assemblymember and State Senator to contact the Budget Committees in each house and demand that we invest more in our Arts–for our economic as well as creative future. Urge the Governor, who has made his fortune on our state’s entertainment industry to step up to the plate and support the arts as well!
It takes two minutes to e-mail your elected representatives and one minute to tell a friend that you did!
America’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year–$63 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $ 103.1 billion in event-related spending by audiences.
Source: Americans for the Arts & Economic Prosperity III
California nonprofit arts organizations add $5.4 billion to the state’s economy and generate nearly $300 million in state and local taxes.
Source: The Arts: A Competitive Advantage for California II
California Arts Advocates is the official Americans for the Arts State Arts Advocacy Captain for California

Dyanne Cano is the Director of Community Service/Service Learning for the Oakwood School, having previously been program coordinator at the Joint Educaitonal Project at USC. She also volunteers as a Program Assistant to “Writers Bloc” , an LA based literary series that features young authors and their work.