The Norman Transcript

Government

January 25, 2014

Arts funds under debate

NORMAN — For the second year in a row, a bill filed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives proposes all funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council be eliminated.

The legislation, HB 2850, written by state Rep. Dan Fisher, R-Yukon, proposes to reduce state government funding to the OAC each fiscal year by 25 percent, eventually ending the appropriation entirely by June 2018.

The first reading is scheduled for Feb. 3. If passed, the act will become effective July 1.

Fisher was unavailable for comment at press time.

A similar bill was proposed in 2013, written by state Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. Last year’s legislation, HB 1895, was proposed to reduce state government funding to the OAC each fiscal year by 25 percent, eventually ending the appropriation in 2017. The bill did not pass.

According to the OAC website, the organization receives a state appropriation of $4 million — less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the state budget, with 80 percent of funding going directly to communities across the state. A study released in 2010 sighted on the website shows those funds support Oklahoma’s $314.8 million nonprofit arts and cultural industry and more than 10,000 jobs. The industry generates $29 million in state and local tax revenue.

Joel Gavin, OAC director of marketing and communications, said passage of the bill would bring an end to the OAC’s nearly 50 years of supporting and developing Oklahoma’s arts and cultural industry.

“In general, state legislators are supportive of our work, understanding the impact of our more than 500 grants to over 300 organizations and schools in communities statewide as well as our professional development services,” Gavin said.

“Legislators are supportive because they understand the value of our work and the arts to Oklahoma’s ability to compete for businesses and a skilled, creative work force. They are also responsive to their constituents. When a similar bill was filed last year, we experienced an outpouring of support for our agency by people in communities across the state.”

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