Ford W. Bell Reacts to House Passage of H.Con.Res.112

March 29, 2012: Today, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution,  H Con Res 112,  calling for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and questioning whether museum funding was a national priority.

The  House report (a narrative produced by the House Budget Committee explaining the bill) notes that “The Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent agency that makes grants to museums and libraries. This is not a core Federal responsibility.” The report further states that funding for the NEA and NEH “can no longer be justified” and that “The activities and content funded by these agencies…are generally enjoyed by people of higher income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.”

“Museums are educational providers and community anchors; they serve all communities and reach diverse audiences," said AAM President Ford W. Bell.  "To mischaracterize museums as only serving the wealthy and to suppose that museums would be able to make up for decreased federal support through charitable contributions reflects a deep misunderstanding of the many essential roles museums play in communities.”

Adding insult to injury, the House-passed budget resolution claims that grants to museums and libraries can be “augmented significantly by charitable contributions from the private sector,” which is contrary to the reality that museums have been hard hit by the economy and have seen a decline in charitable gifts.

“If the House Budget Committee truly feels that charitable contributions are the key to the sustainability of the cultural sector, I urge Committee Members to renew their efforts to incentivize charitable giving and reject any proposals that would limit the deductibility of charitable gifts,” Bell added. “The museum field—and the larger nonprofit community—have put forth several good ideas for how to accomplish this goal.”

The  budget resolution, authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.),  would provide $3.5 trillion in  budget  authority in fiscal 2013 and would limit discretionary appropriations to $1.028 trillion. The Ryan budget is a $19 billion decrease from the $1.047 trillion budget level set by Congress last summer.