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Sine Die! The Arts Matter!

A message from Texans for the Arts:

As a capstone to the 86th Texas Legislative Session, Texans for the Arts, the statewide arts advocacy organization, was present at both the Texas Senate and the Texas House on May 26th as each chamber voted to approve HB 1 – the Texas state budget – unanimously in the Senate and with only one “no” vote out of 150 in the House.

The very first item in the Texas budget is the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) and we at Texans for the Arts are honored to have led the legislative strategy that led to the largest single increase and the largest total budget for the TCA in the state agency’s history. (The TCA was established in 1965). The arts play a significant role in our state’s economy, make Texas a beacon for business location and development, enhance the quality of life for residents, and serve as a catalyst for cultural tourism. Generating $5.59 billion for the Texas economy and nearly $350 million in state sales tax revenue in 2017*, investing in the arts is increasingly seen as a core function of government to ensure that all corners of our state receive public support and investment for creative opportunity through arts and cultural programming.

The final budget approved in the 86th for the Texas Commission on the Arts is $16,443,083 for 2019-2020 and $11,493,038 for 2020-2021. These funds include a restoration of $5 million initially appropriated in the 84th Session and cut in the 85th Session, and an additional increase of $5 million for a total of $10 million for the TCA’s Cultural District grant program, and a new $250,000 for the TCA’s Arts Respond grants that expressly fund programs that use the arts as a means for healing in working with veterans and active duty service men and women and their families. In addition, $5 million was appropriated to support a new fine arts center in Flower Mound, Texas.

Texans for the Arts would like to give a particular shout out to Chairman Jane Nelson, Chair of Senate Finance Committee and Chairman John Zerwas, Chair of House Appropriations Committee, (and both leading the Conference Committee) in addition to a “thank you” to all of the legislators and their staffs who worked with us on this effort, all of our member organizations and individuals who support our work year round, to the Texas Cultural Trust for the important use of the “State of the Arts/Invest in the Arts”* economic impact analysis and for providing testimony and advocacy support throughout the session, to all of the attendees at Texans for the Arts Foundation’s 2019 Arts Advocacy Day who made over 80 legislative visits, and to the other arts leaders who traveled across the state to testify at House Appropriation and Senate Finance Committee hearings. It has taken ongoing work over the past 19 months to build a strong advocacy case for increasing the state’s investment in the arts.

These funds will make a significant difference in the Texas Commission on the Arts’ capacity to reach citizens across the state with dynamic, engaging, thoughtful and community enriching cultural and arts programming.

While we wait for the end of the governor’s veto period on June 16th, we remain optimistic that with support of leadership across both chambers that these funds will not be vetoed.

With more good news for the arts, Texans for the Arts is pleased that a bill which it helped initiate, SB1319, the County HOT Transparency Bill passed in both the House and Senate and has been sent to the Governor’s desk. We would like to thank Senator Brian Birdwell, and our partnership with Texas Hotel & Lodging Association , for their work to ensure the passage of this bill. Building on our success in the 85th Session with the passage of SB1221, the Municipal HOT Transparency Bill, we are pleased that we will now obtain accurate data from across the state re the collection of County HOT Tax, some % of which is eligible for arts and cultural tourism funding.

We will keep everyone apprised through the veto period and, of course, throughout the year as to what a difference these funds are making all across the state of Texas.

Thank you all for your investment of time, energy and commitment to the value and importance of the public investment in the arts for a rewarding 86th!

Photos: Texas Senate and House Chambers for final vote on the state budget – HB1, May 26, 2019.