Amid Tight Budget, Lawmakers Cut Funding For Texas Arts

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By Becky FogelApril 18, 2017 11:46 am

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There are still six weeks left in the 2017 legislative session – but at this point, state lawmakers have said “hasta la vista, baby,” to the state’s film incentives program. And it looks like statewide art funding is on the chopping block too.

“Currently in the House, it’s a 28 percent cut and then the Senate it’s a 34 percent cut,” says Gary Gibbs, the executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts.

This state commission normally has an annual budget of $8 million – 90 percent of which covers grants to nonprofit arts organizations, schools and libraries.

But the commission isn’t just taking a hit to its annual budget – lawmakers have totally eliminated the $5 million for its cultural districts program.

“We designate cultural districts across the state – there are 35 of them,” Gibbs says. “These are places and communities that use the arts and culture as a means of community vitality and economic development.”

Jennifer Ransom Rice is the executive director for the Texas Cultural Trust, which works with the commission.

She says while communities of all sizes benefit from state arts funding, it will be easier for cities to make up the cuts than it will be for rural areas.

“Public funding of the arts is a huge equalizer across the state of Texas and often times the only arts funding that these smaller communities have,” she says.

Rice says they’ll be telling lawmakers in the coming weeks that the arts are a $5.5 billion industry in Texas.

“But also, in each legislators’ backyard, the commission grants in every single of the 31 state Senate districts and in most of the 150 House districts,” she says.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, says that reach could lead lawmakers to fight for a little funding.

“It may not be that you see that increase the arts budget significantly – but for those lawmakers who are willing to go to bat for those programs and their communities,” he says, “they’re likely to get those line items back.”

But Rottinghaus adds that when there’s a tight budget – all state agencies feel the squeeze.

You can learn more about cuts to state arts funding at

A new study says the “Bathroom Bill” governing restroom use for transgender Texans would cost the state’s tourism industry $3.3 billion in its first year.

The San Antonio Area Tourism Council and Visit San Antonio commissioned the economic analysis firm the Perryman Group to conduct the report.

Spring Hill Independent School District in Longview has decided to invest almost half a million dollars in a new digital scoreboard for their football stadium.

Superintendent Steve Snell says the new board could generate more ad revenue, which is divided between the districts sports and arts programs.