GET READY: THE DECLINING STATE BUDGET

As the news fill with dire updates about Oklahoma’s revenues and economic woes, we prepare for the next state legislative session.

Starting February 2, the legislative session will add a potential $1B reduction in next year’s budget to the diverse and challenging policy discussions.

In anticipation of Oklahoma’s Governor, Senators and Representatives entering the session, what should arts and culture advocates know? How do we prepare?

With such a volatile economy and uncertain political environment, there are many hard to answer questions. Let’s focus on what we know and don’t know to focus on our possible advocacy actions.

Please sign up for our email list and ask your friends to sign up so they can get updates and take action too.

WHAT WE KNOW

THE OKLAHOMA ARTS COUNCIL MUST CUT STATE APPROPRIATED EXPENDITURES BY AN ADDITIONAL 3% THIS YEAR:

The Governor declared “revenue failure,” which means she could cut spending across the board. Each state agency must reduce general revenue spending by 3% for this current fiscal year, which ends June 30th.

This means the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget has been cut by $105,315 for the remainder of the fiscal year.  Director Amber Sharples and her staff are working diligently to determine how to make those reductions amidst already quite lean expenses on programs and grants.

The Oklahoma Arts Council has already reduced its budget 7.25% this year, so the mid-year cuts bring this year’s reductions to over 10% or $379,721.

Also, combined with the previous cuts over the past 7 years have totaled 34% or $1,744,767.

These cuts will hurt students and communities across the state given the reach of the Oklahoma Arts Council (In FY14, OAC provided 515 grants to 268 organizations and schools in 92 communities).

THE ARTS AND CULTURE SECTOR ADDS TO LOCAL AND STATE ECONOMIES:

The nonprofit arts and culture sector and its audiences support more than 10,000 full time jobs across our state.

Moreover, public funding for the arts has a good return on investment. In fact, $1 in Oklahoma Arts Council’s grant funds seeds $13 in private matching funds and returns $8 in local and state tax revenue (see full report here).

ADVOCACY FOR ARTS AND CULTURE DOESN’T NEED TO ANSWER FOR THE BUDGET CRISIS:

Arts advocates’ job is not to answer questions about where to find the funds, what should be cut or how the state budget is structured.

Currently the Oklahoma Arts Council budget makes up less than .05% of the state budget. Cuts to the agency will not close the budget gap.

Arts advocate’s role is to emphasize the local community and personal impact of state funding for arts and culture.

Advocates share their own priorities of the arts having vital public value with their elected officials. Advocates must share what will be lost without state funding for the arts in their communities.

WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

HOW MUCH WILL OKLAHOMA ARTS COUNCIL’S BUDGET BE REDUCED?

So far analysts predict at least a $900 million reduction in revenues for the fiscal year starting in July. The reductions in the budget could be even higher. This means legislators will be planning the upcoming budget based on predictions of more than 10% reductions for the July 2016-June 2017 budget.

The final budgets will be decided based on the priorities elected officials hear from their constituents. The outcome is not final, advocate’s voices matter.

HOW DO WE RECOVER FROM THE BUDGET CRISIS?

Analysts theorize assorted ways for Oklahoma’s economic outlook and state operations to improve.

Oklahomans for the Arts focuses on the arts and culture industry, so we won’t speculate about the economy beyond emphasizing the value of investing in artists, arts and culture events and arts education.

Want to learn more about the state budget and how it works (or doesn’t)? See these articles compiled by the nonpartisan Oklahoma Academy for State goals.

WILL ARTS ADVOCATES TAKE ACTION?

Last year only 2% of our email list contacted their legislator through our Action Alerts . Hopefully more  were calling and visiting in person, but your participation needs to increase much to show the public demand for state funding for the arts.

Individuals across the state are impacted by arts and culture. A huge percentage of arts programs, events and education are funded in part by the Oklahoma Arts Council.  Plus the Oklahoma Arts Council leads the strongest statewide arts industry training, impacting hundreds directly each year. We know thousands have personal stories and have seen the economic and community improvements from public funding for the arts.

As an independent nonprofit organization, Oklahomans for the Arts is committed to advocacy and lobbying on behalf of the arts and culture sector. We engage Jerrod Shouse to provide year-round government relations and lobbying. He is at the Capitol daily to be sure we’re informed and part of conversations. We actively communicate arts and culture industry facts and community stories with legislators.

Much more important, we gather and distribute the timely information you need to advocate for yourselves. Your stories and priorities from across the state mean more to your elected officials than anything we can provide.

Given all the parts of this story we can’t know, we know arts and culture improves our state and we hope arts advocates will share that message often and widely!

NOW IS THE TIME TO GROW OUR BASE OF ARTS ADVOCATES SO WE CAN ACT TOGETHER. TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND FELLOW ART SUPPORTERS!

SIGN UP FOR OUR EMAIL LIST FOR ACTION ALERTS HERE OR JOIN TO SUPPORT OUR MISSION.