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Lawmakers Spare Historical, Arts Agencies — For Now
by Christopher Smith Gonzalez - 2/24/2011
Two agencies that Gov. Rick Perry has suggested suspending funding for — the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts — came before House Appropriations this morning. And lawmakers didn't seem particularly apt to shutter them.
The Historical Commission — and in particular its Courthouse Preservation, Main Street and Heritage Trails programs — got a great deal of attention from lawmakers who said their inboxes have been flooded by constituents.
[. . . .] In the House draft of the budget, both commissions receive some funding. But the cuts are deep and would cause both agencies to scale back the programs they offer. The Historical Commission, for example, would be cut by $14.8 million in general revenue funds — and about $80 million in all funds. General revenue funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts would be reduced by 50 percent.
[. . . .] The committee wasn't ready to rule on the Historical Commission — but did approve the recommendations to halve the Commission on the Arts' funding. Gary Gibbs, the commission's executive director, thanked House lawmakers for leaving his agency in the budget rather than shutting it altogether.
Gibbs said the cuts would mean cutting his staff by a third. The commission would also be forced to shrink the grants it provides for a variety of events and programs, like the Austin Shakespeare Festival and the Amarillo Opera. But he took House lawmakers' inclusion of funds for his agency as evidence that they recognize the importance of the arts in Texas. “They contribute to our economy, they enhance the education of our children to prepare them for the 21st century workforce, and they contribute to the quality of life that attracts businesses and a skilled workforce to our state,” he said.