The Joint Finance Committee votes to cut funding for the arts by cut 66 percent in the next two-year budget. Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) calls that “almost obscene.”
Representative Robin Vos (R-Burlington) is committee co-chair. “It’s still optional. We’re not saying that money cannot be spent on it; all we’re saying is there’s not a mandate. I am surprised that you would call that obscene.”
Co-Chair Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says she supports the arts and the film industry, but considering the $3.6 billion deficit, they had to make “tough decisions.”
Jauch doesn’t buy that. “Ms Chair this isn’t a tough decision, it’s a dumb decision” He says “it’s nothing more than a cynical attack on the arts … this is tokenism as it should be defined. You end up with a 66 percent cut in a program that’s vital to our economy, but more importantly to the soul of who we are as a state.”
Current funding for the arts is $1.6 million annually. Under this biennium budget, that would be reduced to $535,000 — or 1/3rd. Members of the Wisconsin Arts Board had said they would be willing to take a 10 percent cut — proportionate to other agencies — to help address the deficit.
Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) stresses the significance of the arts, including for economic development and as a stress release. “It was said that in WWII when Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts to pay for the war he replied ‘then what are we fighting for?’”
The legislative budget-writing panel also approves Governor Walker’s recommendation to merge the Wisconsin Arts Board with the Department of Tourism.