Bill to Give Arts Commission Steady Funding Gets Favorable Report

March 14, 2012

Investigative Reports

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S.C. Arts CommissionLegislation that would give the S.C. Arts Commission a steady source of revenue received approval from a Senate subcommittee today.

Members of the Senate Education K-12 subcommittee gave a favorable report to S. 1210, which deals with funding for the commission.

The bill would provide an annual transfer to the Arts Commission of an amount equal to 15 percent of the General Fund portion of state admission tax revenues and require the agency to expend at least 70 percent of funds generated from the admission tax on grants for children’s and community programs.

The favorable report means subcommittee members approved the bill and it now moves to the full education committee.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, was introduced last month. A similar bill, H. 4697, was introduced in the lower chamber at the end of January.

That bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

“This is a way to deal with funding for this agency, which has been a target lately,” Hayes said.

If the legislation were to pass, it would give the Arts Commission a steady stream of funding and eliminate some of the uncertainty that has surrounded the agency in recent years.

Currently, the Arts Commission has to submit its budget to the governor, who then forwards it to the General Assembly.

Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed all funding for the agency last year, a total of $3.6 million, including more than $1.9 million in general funds. However, the General Assembly overrode that veto by an overwhelming margin.

For 2012-13, the commission submitted a budget request of $3.54 million, including $1.8 million in state funds, which represents a 3 percent reduction from last year if approved.

However, Haley’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year completely eliminates both state and federal funding for the commission.

“We need to find a stable way to fund the arts in South Carolina,” Ken May, executive director of the Arts Commission, told the Senate subcommittee.

The Arts Commission works to increase public participation in the arts by providing services, grants and leadership initiatives in arts education, community arts development and artist development.

The commission has seen its share of state dollars cut sharply over the past few years.

State funding has fallen by more than 50 percent from a decade ago, when the agency received nearly $4.2 million in general funds and more than $6 million in all.

Reach Dietrich at (803) 779-5022 ext. 110, or kevin@thenerve.org.