A measure that proposed to eventually eliminate all funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council won't advance this year, the bill's author said Tuesday.
Rep. Josh Cockroft said House Bill 1895 has been assigned to the House of Representatives Rules Committee, where it is unlikely to get a hearing this year.
“They didn't have support for it,” said Cockroft, referring to GOP leaders in the House where Republicans have a 72-29 majority. “It's dead on arrival, basically.
“I'm OK with that,” said Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. “I wasn't presenting it just to get a bill passed. It's to merely point to a bigger conversation which I think we need to be having — which is, can we make sure that every dollar's going where it absolutely needs to go?”
House Majority Floor Leader Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa, said HB 1895 was assigned to the House Rules Committee because Cockroft listed the measure as his ninth priority. House members are limited to filing eight bills in a session.
“All bills over eight go to Rules,” Peterson said.
HB 1895 called for reducing state funding to the Arts Council each fiscal year by 25 percent. The appropriation from lawmakers was to end in 2017.
The Arts Council is seeking a $500,000 increase for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Half would be to pay for community arts programs and the other half would be for arts education programs. The council provides grants to communities and schools; grant money not spent is returned to the council and used in the next fiscal year.
Cockroft's measure was widely criticized. Several lawmakers said privately they would not have voted for it.
Sen. James Halligan, chairman of a Senate budget subcommittee on education, said he opposed the measure. He said he would have been surprised if the measure had passed the Legislature.
“If you're interested in economic development, you've got to have cultural development at the same time,” said Halligan, R-Stillwater. “They're intimately linked.”
Rep. Lee Denney, chairman of the House budget subcommittee on common education, said she supported the Arts Council, which allows the state to be culturally rich and diverse.
“That's what we need to be to attract our young people back to grow their businesses here, raise their families here,” said Denney, R-Cushing.
Cockroft said his intent was to make sure state funds are being allocated for core services such as transportation, education and public safety. Lawmakers have about $170 million more to allocate this year in developing a nearly $7 billion budget; agencies have made budget requests totaling an increase of about $1.4 billion for the 2014 fiscal year.
“We have so many financial difficulties facing us right now we need to ask ourselves where's every single penny going,” he said. “The objective was to just start the conversation.”
Denney, while backing the Arts Council, said she would have granted the measure a hearing if it had been assigned to her panel.
“It's a great discussion to have,” she said.
Kim Baker, executive director of the Arts Council, made her agency's budget request Tuesday before a joint legislative budget panel headed by Halligan and Denney.
Baker said 80 percent of the Arts Council funds go to communities across the state. The money also supports Oklahoma's $314.8 million nonprofit arts and cultural industry and more than 10,000 jobs. The industry generates $29 million in state and local tax revenue, she said.
Baker said the Arts Council also receives about $725,000 from a federal grant.
About $115,000 of the additional money would go to community arts grants, which generates $12 of private matching funds for every $1 from the Arts Council, she said.
About $65,000 would be used to develop nine cultural enterprise districts in the state.
About $70,000 would go for protecting more than 300 works of art, valued in the millions of dollars, which are in the state Capitol, she said. Plans call for hiring a manager to complete annual inventories and oversee acquisitions and commissions.
“We have this magnificent collection here that really falls under nobody's purview,” Baker said. “It's wonderful, it's beautiful and it needs to be taken care of.”