Measure to cut Oklahoma arts funding won't advance, bill's author says

The lawmaker says the measure, which would have reduced state funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council each fiscal year by 25 percent, is dead on arrival.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: January 30, 2013
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“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.”



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