The voices bemoaning proposed cuts in the two-year $17.7 billion budget that Gov. Ernie Fletcher submitted to the General Assembly last month include public university officials, primary and secondary school administrators who depend on funding for extended school services and the state Attorney General. To that list, add people who work in arts organizations.
Last year, the Kentucky Arts Council, which distributes about two-thirds of its budget to arts organizations throughout the state to help them meet operating expenses, requested a $1 million budget for 2007. Instead, Fletcher proposed to set the councilâ€™s 2007 budget at $4.7 million and its 2008 budget at $4.1 million. But before that, he cut the councilâ€™s 2006 budget by $132,500.
Last week, Arts Kentucky, which lobbies for public and government support of the arts, called on the arts community and others who value the arts to e-mail requests to legislators to increase funding for the council and its programs by $700,000. Thatâ€™s how much Arts Kentucky estimates the council is losing through cuts, primarily in this yearâ€™s budget and the 2007 and 2008 funding shortfalls.
By Friday, all 38 senators and 100 representatives had received at least one message, reported Trish Salerno, Arts Kentucky executive director. While she was encouraged by 848 messages sent through Arts Kentuckyâ€™s Web site (www.artsky.org), the organization has even more plans.
She says Arts Kentucky will increase lobbying efforts with legislative leaders and the members of the House and Senate Appropriations and Revenue committees.
â€œRight now I think whatâ€™s most important for the senators and the representatives to understand is that the cuts (made) to the Arts Council are cuts made to the organizations in their districts,â€ she said.
Meanwhile, Arts Kentucky got encouragement from Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville. During a conference last Wednesday with about 50 people representing organizations from Paducah to Pikeville, Yonts said, â€œWell, we scrapped the governorâ€™s budget. Weâ€™re writing our own now. So you might get in.â€