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House bill would eliminate arts funding

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A proposed house bill would eliminate state funding for the Oklahoma Arts Council.

Currently, the state agency receives $4 million a year.

HB 1895 would reduce that amount by 25 percent every year over the next four years until it was ultimately eliminated.

About 80 percent of the Arts Council's budget goes directly to communities throughout Oklahoma in the form of grants.

Many in the arts community who receive funding from the Oklahoma Arts Council said the cut would have a devastating effect on our state.

"We have a very good arts community in Oklahoma and I think it would be, it would be very sad," Lyn Adams said, Executive Director of Oklahoma Children's Theatre.

Adams said the arts are important for attracting new people and businesses to our state.

"It sends a message to people that the arts are just not valued in this community," she said.

"I think the arts council, for every dollar that we spend in the state, and they spend, gets $4 back in economic return," Shannon Price said, Assistant Director of the Edmond Fine Arts Institute. "So it is a thriving business in the state of Oklahoma."

Price said they would have to cut school programs without state funding.

She also said the renaissance in Oklahoma City can be traced back to the arts.

"With all the new things that are happening in Oklahoma City and in the community, a lot of that is revolved around the arts," Price said.

The author of the bill, State Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Tecumseh), sent us this statement:

“With Oklahoma government spending at an all-time high the time has come to set priorities and to exercise spending discipline.”

“The question each of us must ask is if we are properly funding the core functions of state government. If the answer is ‘no’ in any area, it must be our responsibility to ensure that each taxpayer dollar is going to the funding of those core functions before we ever look at the many side projects of which we have been so ready to fund in years past.”

“My goal is not to destroy the arts in Oklahoma, but rather to start a discussion of what our responsibilities are. I have nothing against the arts, in fact, quite the contrary. I do not support however the misuse of taxpayers’ dollars. Every dollar saved from these side projects is a dollar better spent for our teachers, state employees, and agencies across Oklahoma.”

“The Arts Council can operate solely from donations and self-generated funds, without receiving state appropriations. Promotion of the arts is a nonprofit interest, which should not be advantaged over other nonprofit efforts that do not receive state appropriations. State government has core functions that are neglected when limited resources are diverted to things which are not core functions of government.”

“This is simply following in the footsteps of Kansas, who eliminated their arts council funding in 2011. Today, supported by private donations, their arts council is still going strong. Phasing out appropriations is not a death sentence; instead it is an encouragement for less government reliance. I truly believe that the private sector can and will do a much better job at managing than state government ever could.”

The bill has just been proposed and still has to make it through committee hearings before going to a vote.