Last week, Democrats gave up their fight to block $70 billion in unrestricted war funding and on December 19, Congress sent the $556 billion omnibus spending bill to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.
Included in this bill is a historic increase in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Funding for the NEA will be increased by $20.144 million, or about 16%, to $144.706 million for FY08. This is less than the $160 million appropriation proposed in the House version of the bill, but more than the Senate proposal of $133.412 million and more than the President’s requested $128.412 million, and it represents the largest increase in NEA funding since 1979, when funding was increased by $25.735 million (which itself followed an increase of $23.978 million in 1978). The $144.706 million was actually $147 million before an across-the-board cut of 1.56%. NEA funding still has not recovered from the massive $62.8 million cut to the 1996 budget, but has increased every year starting with the 2001 appropriations.
Within the NEA appropriation, the biggest funding increase is to the “American Masterpieces” initiative, which the NEA website says “is a major initiative to acquaint Americans with the best of their cultural and artistic legacy. Through American Masterpieces, the National Endowment for the Arts sponsors performances, exhibitions, tours, and educational programs across different art forms that reach large and small communities in all 50 states.” The 2007 budget for this program was $5.911 million and it stands to nearly double to $13.289 million in 2008.
The League of American Orchestras is reporting that “Congressional Arts Caucus co-chairs Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Chris Shays (R-CT) rallied House colleagues in support of the NEA, and Interior Appropriations Committee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) championed NEA funding as a priority issue.” Special thanks to LAO’s Heather Noonan for help in finding the details of the bill, which you can see here and here.
National Endowment for the Humanities funding will increase by just $3.602 million, in spite of an $18.895 million request in the House version of the bill.