Government Spending on California Arts

During 2002-03, the budget for the California Arts Council was $18.4 million dollars, enabling the council to issue numerous grants to artists and arts organizations. A year later, due to the state’s budget crisis, the CAC budget was slashed to the bone. With funding reduced to a meager $1.9 million, the council was forced to fire staff and suspend all grant making programs. Currently, the California Arts Council receives just 3 cents per capita, making California the last in the nation when it comes to arts funding. For 2006-07, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed a $1.8 million boost for the CAC budget, with the funding coming from voluntary purchases of specialty arts license plates. My beautiful home state, rich in so many ways - has been at the very bottom of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies rankings for the last two years.

First they break your legs - then they want thanks for giving you crutches.

Meanwhile, at L.A.’s City Hall, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s budget proposal would only slightly raise the budget of the Cultural Affairs Department by a paltry $200,000. Funding for the agency has continuously been hacked over the years, falling from $13.3 million four years ago to $9.6 million currently. Curiously, the city’s arts grants will actually decrease under the major’s plan, dropping from $2.5 million to $2.1 million. According to the LA Times, Mayor Villaraigosa wants to divert $150,000 from the CAD grants budget to help “launch a three-year effort to devise a new cultural master plan for the city.” It had better be some terrific plan.

The only bright spot for Angelinos comes from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who have more than doubled next year’s fiscal budget for arts grants, from $2.2 million to $4.5 million. The supervisors just approved a budget that includes $62.9 million for the arts, with the bulk of that money going towards established cultural institutions like The Music Center, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Still, this budget is not in the least adequate for a city that offers the best in world class culture. It is a major embarrassment that Los Angeles lags far behind San Francisco and New York in terms of per capita government support for the arts.

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