The Art of Government
The old saying in government is that “where you stand depends on where you sit.”
In other words, because I’m freshly seated as Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Committee, it’s no wonder I stand in strong opposition to proposed budget cuts that affect, well, all of the above.
But the evidence is hard to ignore. The arts industry generates $25.7 billion worth of economic impact in New York State. The overall multiplier is 1.98, “which means that for every dollar in direct spending, another 98 cents of value is generated in the state’s economy.”
Even Milton Friedman would get pretty comfortable in a seat like that.
Just look at capital spending. Between 2003 and 2005, cultural institutions in New York City spent $1.4 billion on capital construction. This generated “an average of 3,460 full-time equivalent jobs in each of the three years.”
Yet funding for the New York State Council on the Arts could take a $7 million hit for the current fiscal year, and another $7 million for 2009-2010.
Meanwhile, state support for zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums would disappear under the proposed executive budget. That could mean massive layoffs at a place like the Bronx Zoo, where 38% of full-time staff and 80% of part-time staff live in the borough … and don’t forget the porcupines.
The point is that museums and “living museums” have always been an incubator for real growth – not the watch-my-stock-portfolio-boom kind of growth, but rather the one that produces jobs, creates linkages with local business, and expands education for our kids.
All the more important for our kids, who keep getting squeezed out of valuable art space in their public schools.
In order to restore some of these critical investments, I stand with a large number of my legislative colleagues in support of more progressive taxation. The wealthiest households in our state have taken a vacation from reality these past few decades, and must pay their fare share.
I will also advocate more support from the federal government – first and foremost on issues like housing and public health, but also as it relates to the arts. New Deal initiatives like the Federal Art Project and Federal Writers’ Project unleashed a great deal of hope and creativity in New York – whether it was murals (like those at WNYC) or life histories (here’s one from my own district).
Cultural treasures are born out of difficult times … but it often takes political will.
On February 3rd, Assemblymember Steve Englebright and I will convene a Joint Committee Meeting to discuss the proposed budget cuts. In the spirit of legislative reform, we are counting on bipartisan engagement and participation, and – perhaps for the first time in Albany history – soliciting YouTube commentary from organizations across the state. We want to make sure that even if you can’t make the trip to Albany – though carpooling is available! – that your voice will be heard.
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