A legislative committee has recommended eliminating the state arts agency in Arizona and its $5.1 million annual budget. It has also recommended that a $7 million fund established as an endowment for arts programs be dissolved, so the money can be used for other purposes.
Arizona is not the only state taking such a radical step. Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey, who is grappling with a $5 billion deficit, has proposed cutting the entire $18 million budget of his state's Council on the Arts and canceling a planned $10 million payment to a cultural trust fund that supports small arts groups. Missouri is also planning to eliminate its entire arts budget. Other states may follow suit as they confront daunting fiscal challenges.
Studies conducted over the last few years have shown that spending on arts programs produces handsome economic returns, and many state officials have come to agree that supporting these programs is a wise investment. But they now say their preferences are irrelevant because state coffers are bare.
"There is broad bipartisan support for arts programs in most states, but that doesn't matter anymore," said Kimber Craine, spokesman for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. "The states are facing one of their worst budget crises since World War II. The deficits they are facing are huge."
These numbers are truly laughable. Arizona's annual arts agency budget is just $5.1 million — a pitiful figure for a program of the type that "produces handsome economic returns." Even the parasitic right-wing "research and education" charity, the Heritage Foundation, has an annual budget in the neighborhood of $29 million.
To put the scale into perspective, this story reaches us on the same day that the US is seriously talking about meeting Turkey's request for a Gulf War Two multibillion dollar gratuity (Washington Post): "The administration increased an earlier $4 billion offer to $6 billion last week, according to U.S. officials who said that the money could be leveraged to produce far more in private bank loans. After the weekend, a U.S. official said, the Turks replied with a demand for $10 billion."
$10 billion would fund Arizona's arts agency for the next two thousand years.