Engage: Negotiated State Budget

Last week the legislative leadership passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) . [Update 5/31/17: Governor Fallin signed the budget into law.]

The budget proposal reduces the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget by 4.87%. This will reduce the ability of arts and culture organizations to improve our state’s communities and economy.

This was an incredibly hard legislative session for all. Past financial decisions and a slumping economy combined to create uncertainty for every part of our state government. While arts and culture advocates cannot be satisfied with this reduction of funds, we can be relieved to keep our state art agency more stable.

We will learn more about this budget’s impact over time, but we anticipate:

  • The Oklahoma Arts Council faces a 4.87% budget reduction from FY17 appropriations (slightly less if you take out mid-year cuts like the legislature did, making it a 4.2% reduction). This means $143,112 less in funding for the arts and culture sector. These cuts will have a direct negative impact on communities across the state, decreasing community programming and limiting educational experiences.

  • This is a multiple year policy direction. Over the past 8 years, the Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget has been reduced by 46%. The Oklahoma Arts Council’s budget has gone from $5,150,967 in FY2010 to $2,795,181 in the FY2018 proposed budget, a loss of more than $2.3M. In fact, the budget proposal for the Oklahoma Arts Council will be smaller than any year since 1989.

These ongoing funding decisions will have a negative ripple effect on many communities, especially rural communities who otherwise might not have access to arts programming. Schools and other sectors, including businesses, also will feel the negative impact. Read more about how past cuts have impacted funding and services here.

This budget will hurt local economies since $1 in Oklahoma Arts Council’s grant funds generates $14 in private matching funds and returns $8 in local and state tax revenue.

On the brighter side, arts advocates should be somewhat gratified that the Oklahoma Arts Council was not singled out for extremely disproportionate cuts. This is an improvement over the last few legislative sessions where the Oklahoma Arts Council faced other threats. This shows the visibility of our sector built by hard work of arts and culture advocates and the strong leadership of our legislative champions.

Regardless of short-term decisions, arts and culture advocates must work for the long term well being of our state. We must be engaged and work harder to educate our elected officials through visits and communications. We must demonstrate further the positive impact of the arts and culture sector. We must continue to creatively provide rich arts and cultural experiences across the state.

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Tonnie Dosser