8:55 PM EDT

Tim Walberg, R-MI 7th

Mr. WALBERG. Mr. Chairman, tonight I am offering an amendment that would reduce funding for the National Endowment for the Arts to fiscal year 2006 levels.

In February, during the consideration of H.R. 1, I offered a similar amendment to cut NEA funding, which the House adopted. The underlying bill funds the National Endowment for the Arts at $135 million which is a $19.7 million reduction from last year's level.

I commend the chairman and the committee for recognizing that this funding has precipitated at an unsustainable rate. Since 2008, the NEA has received increases of over $10 million each year, including $50 million in funding from the stimulus in 2009. These spending increases have coincided with annual trillion dollar deficits.

My amendment would take funding levels back to fiscal year 2006 levels at $124.4 million. If accepted, this cut returns $10.6 million to the spending reduction account.

I want you to know I believe in the fine arts, and of course I know that's defined by individual standards. In the past, I was privileged to serve on a symphony board for a time as the chairman of the finance committee. In my early years, I was brought to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by my parents, on school trips and otherwise, and appreciate the impact the fine arts can have. Tramping through art museums is not foreign to me as well, and I enjoy much of what I see.

But at a time when our government must cut Federal spending, at a time when our taxpayers cut and fix and repair and alter their own lifestyles and their spending, the primary source of funding for the arts should be through philanthropy, not forcing open the taxpayers' wallet without their choice.

The National Foundation for the Arts does provide benefits to our country and helps fund our true fine arts. However, we are asking them to only fund their true priorities, and they can make those priorities. We know that the public asks questions about some of the programs that the NEA has supported. I'm tempted to, but I will refrain from, giving explicit illustrations of funded programs and projects that they've undertaken with much taxpayer disapproval. But suffice it to say that in recent

years the NEA has funded exhibits that disparage religion, promote pornography, and support Presidential campaigns. That is not supported by the general taxpayer and should not be.

My amendment asks the NEA to only fund their true priorities. Now, if they want to determine those priorities, so be it. But if they want to determine priorities for youth concert series or young composers or you name it, that will be a choice as well, and I think most taxpayers would support those choices.

Our country is in financial hardship. The sponsors of the arts should be sponsors of the arts, as I am. But taxpayers ought to know that we will expect them, like the rest of the programs and certainly the rest of society, to be efficient at this time. Our country is in a financial hardship, and we're not taking programs like the NEA off the table; we're just asking them to establish priorities with reduced funding, yes, but an opportunity to efficiently convey to the taxpayers their understanding

of what we're going through as well.

I yield back the balance of my time.

9:06 PM EDT

Jim Moran, D-VA 8th

Mr. MORAN. I do think that it's important that we make this nominal investment in the cultural lives of our citizens and in our children's futures. I can't imagine how a Nation as rich and prosperous as ours would not consider it a priority to provide funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

There's too much that divides us as a Nation. This is something that should be uniting, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. Everyone can appreciate the arts because it inspires us all. It inspires us to look past the parochial, the small-mindedness to see the big picture and to appreciate greatness.

This amendment should be defeated, and in it we should send a message that we understand what's important to the lifeblood of our national community. [Page: H5653]

I yield back the balance of my time.

9:07 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to the Walberg amendment. First, let me associate myself with the words of my good friend from Virginia and his comments on this. The Walberg amendment would return the NEA funding to the 2006 levels of $126 million. The National Endowment for the Arts--the NEA--is funded in this bill at $135 million, which is a $20 million reduction from the fiscal year 2011 enacted level, a $32.5 million reduction from the fiscal year 2010 enacted level, and a

$10 million reduction from the fiscal year 2008 enacted level.

I was asked earlier by a Member if I would support just going back to the 2008 level. We could do that but we'd have to add another $10 million into it. And we, frankly, just don't have it. This would take it back to the 2006 level, as I said. Overall, the committee has cut $2.1 billion in this bill from the fiscal year 2011 enacted level. This is on top of the $2.6 billion we cut from the bill earlier this year.

I think this amendment is excessive. But I will tell you that for some people, voting against any funding for the arts is okay with them. I'm not suggesting that that's what the sponsor of this amendment is proposing. He's only proposing a reduction in this. But there are Members who believe that the Federal Government or a State government--no government--should be involved in the arts at all. I disagree.

When we ran into problems several years ago before I was here--maybe it was when Mr. Moran was here; I can't remember--but they ran into some controversies with the arts and the funding for individual artists that they've done. Since then, the Interior Appropriations Committee has done, working with the NEA, some reforms. So we don't fund individual artists. We fund what the intent is, I think, of the National Endowment for the Arts, and that is to get the arts out to the rest of America.

If you're sometimes in a large city and that type of thing, you have access to arts. But when you're in Salmon, Idaho, you don't have access to the arts like they do in some of the other areas.

So one of the things I've been focused on in working with Chairman Landesman is making sure the arts get out to rural America so that they have an opportunity to see these art performances, whether they're the visual arts or the performing arts or other things. But we need to get them out to rural America. If you want to come to Boyce, Idaho, you will have missed Boyce, Idaho, in the summer if you don't go to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, partly funded by a grant from the National Endowment

for the Arts.

[Time: 21:10]

Yes, they raise private funds and have sponsorships and other things, but part of their funding comes from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Chairman Landesman was out in Idaho last spring, I guess it was, and we toured around Idaho and looked at some of the arts programs, at the local arts agencies that receive some funding from the NEA, and we looked at the impact it had on their operations. We also went to Jerome High School where the actors who did their performances in Boise City, at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, toured the schools and gave performances to students. Then they sat there afterwards and talked with the students

about what it was to be in the performing arts--how you get into it, what the pluses and minuses of it were, and other things. They helped educate these students in these communities. It's a very important thing.

There are a variety of very popular programs in this bill which are popular on both sides of the aisle. The American Jazz Masters program, the Heritage Fellowships, The Big Read program, and Shakespeare in American Communities have their funding maintained, not at the previous levels, but at a level so that they can maintain these very popular programs. The chairman has introduced a new program that we're working with him on--exactly how it would work and what it would be--called Our Town, which

is how the arts can help transform local communities and other things through a grant program, so we've been working with him.

I will tell you that the arts are important, and I think having a Federal investment in the arts is an important thing to have.

9:12 PM EDT

Tim Walberg, R-MI 7th

Mr. WALBERG. I thank the chairman for yielding.

I just want to make it clear because, as I've listened to the opposition to this, it appears one didn't catch my train of thought. I'm not saying that arts or the NEA is wrong. I'm saying it's time to make priority decisions.

Certain priority decisions, as recently as November of 2010, fund programs such as Fire in the Belly--I won't go into the full description of it--and Hide and Seek, which can be considered pornography and which was, in fact, portrayed as that in an exhibit. Those are things that are priority decisions.

So I'm saying it is time, if we're funding those, to give the taxpayer a break and say, if you want to attend those or support those, do it through philanthropy or do it through initial sponsorships themselves but not through the taxpayer.

9:12 PM EDT

Tim Walberg, R-MI 7th

Mr. WALBERG. I thank the chairman for yielding.

I just want to make it clear because, as I've listened to the opposition to this, it appears one didn't catch my train of thought. I'm not saying that arts or the NEA is wrong. I'm saying it's time to make priority decisions.

Certain priority decisions, as recently as November of 2010, fund programs such as Fire in the Belly--I won't go into the full description of it--and Hide and Seek, which can be considered pornography and which was, in fact, portrayed as that in an exhibit. Those are things that are priority decisions.

So I'm saying it is time, if we're funding those, to give the taxpayer a break and say, if you want to attend those or support those, do it through philanthropy or do it through initial sponsorships themselves but not through the taxpayer.

9:13 PM EDT

Mike Simpson, R-ID 2nd

Mr. SIMPSON. In reclaiming my time, I appreciate the gentleman's concern. The Hide and Seek program, as the gentleman mentioned, was not an NEA program. It was not funded by the NEA, and that was not part of the NEA.

We have a tendency to think that anything that's done in this country or in this State or in this community that is done in the name of arts is done by the NEA. That's not the truth. So, when we attack them because of Hide and Seek, that's just not an accurate statement.

Again, there have been times in the past when there have been criticisms of the NEA, mainly because of the individual artist funding that went on. The committee has addressed that, and they have made reforms in working with the NEA to make sure that those types of things are not funded in this bill and that we don't fund individual artists. The main funding of the program is to get the arts out into the rural communities. Like I said, the American Jazz Masters program and The Big Read program

are all vitally important programs that, I think, the American people like and that, I think, Members on both sides of the aisle like.

I yield back the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, I move that the Committee do now rise.

The motion was agreed to.

Accordingly, the Committee rose; and the Speaker pro tempore (Mr. Reed) having assumed the chair, Mr. Paulsen, Acting Chair of the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, reported that that Committee, having had under consideration the bill (H.R. 2584) making appropriations for the Department of the Interior, environment, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2012, and for other purposes, had come to no resolution thereon.

END