policy and advocacy
Follow the links below for the latest updates on some of the major federal activities pertaining to the arts. You may write your members of Congress on any of these issues by visiting our E-Advocacy Center.
Further details on our policy positions are provided through our issue briefs.
- Currently on the House Floor
- Senate Floor Information
(see right side of the page for today's schedule)
- 2013 Congressional Schedule [PDF]
(dates subject to change)
- Congressional Arts Caucus Roster [PDF]
- Senate Cultural Caucus [PDF]
National Endowment for the Arts/Humanities Funding
The FY13 federal budget process finally came to a close in March 2013 with the passage of a Continuing Resolution that incorporated the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester. The compromise averted a government shutdown and funds federal discretionary programs and agencies through October 1, 2013. Cultural agencies saw their appropriations reduced by five percent resulting in a $7 million cut for the NEA to a budget of $139 million for the year.
With completion of FY13, the House and Senate quickly passed competing FY14 budget resolutions that have stark differences on taxing and spending philosophies. While the proposals are generally nonbinding, lacking in specific program spending details and do not require the president’s signature, they do represent each chamber’s majority party budget priorities. The House Republican budget plans to balance the budget in 10 years and calls for the elimination of the NEA and other cultural agencies. The Senate Democratic budget calls for raising more revenues from taxes to achieve federal deficit reduction and suggests that capping the value of itemized deductions, including those to charities like the nonprofit arts.
On April 10, the Obama Administration released its FY14 Budget Request, which proposed increased levels of funding for both the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities to $154.466 million.
Before leaving for the August recess work period, the House Appropriations Committee began consideration of the spending bill that funds the NEA and NEH, but left it unfinished. The committee faced numerous amendments from both parties, including an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to restore NEA funding to the president’s request of $154 million. After lengthy debate, the amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.
With only 9 legislative days remaining in the House before the end of the fiscal year, it is doubtful a final bill will be negotiated, and a continuing resolution is expected. On August 1, House Speaker John Boehner indicated his support for a continuing resolution “for some short period of time.” On the same day, Senate also released their draft version of the FY14 spending bill which would fund the NEA and NEH at the president’s request level of $154 million for each agency – a major, and welcomed, departure from the House version.
Office of Museum Services (IMLS)
OMS is currently funded at $27.9 million as a result of the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution and the sequester. The agency that houses OMS, the Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) is funded at $220 million. The President has proposed a $2 million bump to $32.9 million for OMS in his FY 2014 Budget Request.
Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)
CPB, which receives advanced funding for long range programmatic planning purposes, remains funded at $445 million in the FY 2013 CR. In his FY 2014 budget, the President has also proposed level-funding at $445 million.
The FY 2014 Obama budget request repeats the same proposal that has been made, and rejected, for the last three fiscal years. The request has been to consolidate the federal Arts in Education program into a larger grant program combined with seven other programs at the U.S. Department of Education. Congress and grassroots advocates have rejected this non-traditional approach to drastically change authorized programs via an appropriations request.
Last year, the Arts in Education program was funded at $26.5 million for FY 2013 by the Senate appropriations subcommittee, but Congress failed to finalize a budget, leaving the program level-funded at the FY 2012 level of $25 million. Education appropriations subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin accepted the Americans for the Arts and U.S. Conference of Mayors award for congressional arts leadership at the 2013 Arts Advocacy Day.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has stated that he has consistently heard about the narrowing of the curriculum during his trips across the country and the administration is committed to strengthening arts education opportunities in the future. In 2010, the administration offered an introductory reauthorization proposal called the "Blueprint," and is now administering a process for states to receive waivers to remove much of the onerous NCLB regulations in exchange for taking specific policy steps.
The reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act is now long overdue. This body of federal education policy, last authorized in 2002 (as “No Child Left Behind”) has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum and arts education has struggled to remain in many schools across the country. There was no substantive action in relating to education policy in 2012 beyond a Senate committee bill that stalled out at the end of the year. Americans for the Arts continues to educate members of Congress and their staff on the importance of the arts in education, and strengthen the advocacy taking place in states as education reform efforts progress there.
The fiscal cliff compromise did resolve some outstanding tax issues that would have had a dramatic impact on almost every taxpayer. President Obama signed the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012, making permanent the Bush-Obama tax cuts for earners making below the income threshold of $400,000 (individuals) and $450,000 (families). While not the large grand bargain that would have established comprehensive tax reform and changes to dramatic sequester spending cuts, the legislation averts marginal tax rates being raised on 98% of the taxpayers.
Most importantly for the nonprofit arts community, the last minute bargain did not include caps on the value of itemized deductions which possibly could have had a direct impact on charitable giving to the arts. Reinstatement of the Personal Exemption Phaseout (PEP) and Pease provision (which lowers the value of most itemized deductions for yearly earners in the $250,000 individual, $300,000 family income thresholds) was also included in the compromise. This was somewhat a relief to the nonprofit sector as they avoided proposals from the White House and Congress that would have capped the value of the deductions to 28% or created a hard dollar cap in which taxpayers would have to fit all their competing deductions under. Due in part do to pressure the Coalition for Giving (Americans for the Arts is a member) exerted, the administration and congressional leaders seemingly relaxed their approach to finding revenue from this part of the code.
Legislators continue to work on issues surrounding tax reform and long term spending decisions. No specific policies have been translated into legislative language or action - and whether there is the political will to press ahead with comprehensive tax reform while there are so many other pressing deadlines that are not as complicated as addressing the code, is a big question. It can be certain that revenue will again be topic and deductions part of the conversation.
On April 10, the Administration included in their FY 2014 budget request to Congress limiting the value of itemized deductions including the charitable deduction, which nonprofit arts groups rely on as a valuable revenue source.
The IRA Charitable Rollover, which permits tax-free charitable contributions from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) of up to $100,000 per year for taxpayers 70.5 years old expired on January 1, 2012 after a year-long extension. An extension was granted as a result of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012. Advocates for the provision will push the new congress to consider making it a permanent policy that will remove the age and dollar amount cap. There is no current legislation at the moment.
The Artist-Museum Partnership Act, legislation that would allow creators of original works to deduct the fair-market value of self-created works given to and retained by a nonprofit collecting institution, was reintroduced in the U.S. House by longtime champions Reps. John Lewis (GA) and Todd Platts (PA) as HR 1190 in the 112th session of Congress. It would encourage gifts of visual art such as paintings and sculptures, as well as original manuscripts and supporting material created by composers, authors, and choreographers. Co-sponsorship flagged greatly because of the other issues concerning the fiscal cliff and marginal tax rates in the tax-writing committees and the bill was not seriously considered during last session. Mr. Lewis hopes to reintroduce the legislation this year and find a place for its passage during rumored comprehensive tax reform.
The Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, would require the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to expedite nonprofit arts-related organizations visa petitions, Although the bills were not reintroduced in the 112th Congress, arts advocates are working with congressional supporters to introduce in the 113th Congress. Advocates have also been working with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration agency to file comments and provide direct feedback on O and P visa processing.
Congressional Arts Caucus
Long time co-chair Rep. Louise Slaughter has been joined by Rep. Leonard Lance (D-NJ) as the new co-chair of the caucus in the 113th Congress. Currently the Caucus has 151 members.
Congressional STEAM Caucus
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) are co-chairs of the new bipartisan Congressional STEAM Caucus, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. The Caucus aims “to change the vocabulary of education to recognize the benefits of both the arts and sciences—and their intersections—to our country's future generations. Caucus members will work to increase awareness of the importance of STEAM education and explore new strategies to advocate for STEAM programs.” Currently the Caucus has 24 members.
Senate Cultural Caucus
The Senate Cultural Caucus is led by two co-chairs: Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The caucus has 32 members.