Texas: The State of the Arts

Let the sausage making begin.  The 82nd Legislative session is underway in Texas.  Governor Rick Perry announced last week that there are no “sacred cows” in a state budget that has an estimated $15 billion shortfall. In his “State of the State” address he suggested the wholesale slaughter of several state agencies including the Texas Commission on the Arts, Texas Historical Commission, Public Utility Commission, as well as dramatic cuts to public schools, state-provided health care and the consolidation of a number of state agencies.

Governor Rick Perry delivers the "State of the State" address. AP

Not on the chopping block: Perry’s own pet project: the $150 billion Texas Enterprise Fund.

Fortunately for Texas the office of Governor doesn’t wield as much power as other states.  Also, most legislators use the platform of the budget of the 2010-11 biennium and develop their recommendations using those budget figures.

On February 2, 85 cultural arts professionals visited with 76 Texas legislators during Arts Advocacy Day orchestrated by Texans for the Arts.  Investment in the arts is good business.  The cultural arts generate $4.5 billion annually in taxable sales in Texas.  There are more than 700,000 employees in Texas that work in the creative sector with an average salary of $70k.  Statistically speaking that means 1 in 15 workers in Texas are employed in creative sector jobs.  These key messages and our collective support of House and Senate Bill 1 was shared by the arts advocacy team I was part of with the genial staffs of State Representative Beverly Woolley and Sylvester Turner; and Senators Joan Huffman and John Whitmire.

We get it. We understand the current fiscal crisis in Texas and we are willing to take our share of reasoned budget cuts along with other state agencies.  That’s why we advocate the passage of House and Senate Bill 1 as they currently stand which provide for continued investment in local arts organizations. TCA has requested $14.5 million over the next two years, down from the $15.9 million it received in the last budget cycle.  TCA may lose staff members, and grant allocations may be smaller, but a reduced budget will keep Texas art organizations afloat.

So, what can you do to support the cultural arts in Texas?  With a click of your mouse, you can become a dues paying member of the Texans for the Arts, the official arts advocacy organization for Texas. Or for $30 per year you can sport a State of the Arts license plate on your car. The proceeds go directly to TCA.

Buy your car a present for $30 a year and support art in Texas.

If you can’t work in a visit to Austin, simply visit http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/ to determine who is your Texas State Senator and Representative.  Then write them a letter in support of continued funding for the cultural arts in Texas.

It’s your money – share your voice on how it’s spent.

Sausage making is an art and a process and so is balancing the needs of our state.  May 30 is the official final day of the 82nd Texas Legislative Session.  So take 15 minutes, collect your thoughts and let your voice be heard.  It’s the American way.  Pass me a link.

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