Legislators Restore Some Arts Cuts, Advocates Call for Full Funding

Sacramento — Arts Advocates released the following statements after the legislature agreed to restore 75 percent of the recent cuts announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Newsom had announced fully cutting the state’s innovative Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund ($12.5 million), plus a reduction of 38% in state grant funding for small arts nonprofits through the California Arts Council (CAC) on May 10 when he released his May Revised budget proposal.

Yesterday, Speaker Rivas and Pro Tem McGuire announced an agreement on a legislative budget that restores $12.5 million in funding for the Equitable Payroll Fund and $5 million to the CAC.

The arts funding was restored following an aggressive campaign from arts advocates, employers, and unions who sent more than 9,000 letters into the legislature, held over 30 meetings, and a press conference outside the capitol. More than 400 organizations signed a letter led by CA Arts Advocates, Actors’ Equity Association and the Theatre Producers of Southern California opposing the cuts.

“While we appreciate that California Arts Council local assistance funding will be restored to the $26M in 2026-27, there is more work to be done, with $5 million in cuts still on the table at the California Arts Council this year and next,” said Julie Baker, CEO, CA Arts Advocates. “Today was an important first step, but California cannot truly be a national leader in supporting arts workers when the CAC is below where funding was in the year 2000. We look forward to building on this progress and hope in final negotiations restoring the $5 million, a relatively small amount for the budget but huge for the arts statewide, will still be considered.”

“This agreement by the legislature to restore full funding to the Equitable Payroll Fund and add funding to the California Arts Council is a recognition that when people go to see live arts events, they generate economic activity and that investing in the arts is a positive return on investment for the state,” said Al Vincent Jr., Executive Director, Actors’ Equity Association. “I want to thank Sen. Anthony Portantino and Asm. Mike Gipson for their leadership in fighting to restore these cuts, and I look forward to working with the Governor and legislature on sustaining this funding so that California can stand by its arts workers.”

“We are grateful that the California legislature has moved to restore 75% of the proposed funding cuts to the Arts,” said Martha Demson, Board President of Theatre Producers of Southern California. “We particularly appreciate the legislature’s recognition that Arts jobs are real jobs, with their move to restore $12.5 million for the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund program implementation. We want to thank Senator Portantino for his steadfast leadership over the past three years, and Assemblymenber Mike Gipson for his work to restore these cuts that would otherwise have had a devastating impact on a vulnerable sector. We understand that we are in a very difficult budget year, but do hope that the legislature will continue to look for ways to restore the additional $5 million to the CAC budget.”

Since 2020, a broad coalition of arts and culture workers, entertainment unions, producers, nonprofits, live entertainment venues, music film, tv, and movie theater representatives have worked together on public policies and resources to ensure the recovery and sustainability of the creative industries. However, while some parts of the arts and culture ecosystem have recovered from the impact of COVID, many have not, most notably the nonprofit performing arts. The sweep of the $12.5 million intended for the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund, a groundbreaking program that supports live arts workers at smaller, nonprofit companies, was approved just a few years ago with a strong, bipartisan vote from the Legislature. This policy innovation remains critical to stabilizing the performing arts workforce. The Governor's cut erases five years of building a legislative solution to address the deleterious impacts of both rising labor and operational costs and the pandemic on California’s small performing arts organizations.

In total, the Governor’s proposed $10 million cut to the California Arts Council’s budget for Local Assistance Funding would have amounted to a greater than 38% reduction to the $26 million allocation level at which it has been stalled for the past seven years. The highpoint of support for the California Arts Council’s programming was at $30.7 million in the 2000-2001 budget, which in today’s dollars counting for inflation would be $54.7 million. Since 2018-19, general fund support has plateaued at $26 million – just .67 cents per California resident. At this level, California ranks 36th in the nation in per capita arts spending. In contrast, Florida spends almost $2.00 per resident. A $10 million cut to this program would position California at 45th in the nation in local arts assistance funding, just above Kentucky, Kansas and Georgia.    
ACTORS' EQUITY ASSOCIATION, founded in 1913, is the U.S. labor union that represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers. Equity endeavors to advance the careers of its members by negotiating wages, improving working conditions and providing a wide range of benefits (health and pension included). Member: AFL-CIO, FIA. www.actorsequity.org #EquityWorks

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May 30, 2024