Governor Jerry Brown Proposes $5 Million Hike in State Arts Budget

California State Capitol (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In an unusual move, California Governor Jerry Brown has proposed boosting the state arts budget by $5 million.

The one-time augmentation proposal — delivered last Friday as part of the "May revise" (the budget the Governor sends to the Legislature) — surprised arts advocates because requests for funding typically originate from the legislature, not the Governor.

"To have Governor Brown himself suggesting the increase for this year is a sea change," says arts advocate and executive director of Theatre Bay Area Brad Erickson. 

If lawmakers approve Brown's $5 million boost, state arts funding would increase by 30 percent to around $21 million.

But the windfall may end up being even greater: On Tuesday, a senate budget sub-committee decided to revisit the augmentation later this week after a committee member suggested increasing Brown's proposed sum to the California Arts Council by as much as $10 million. 

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Whether the arts council receives $5 million or more, the money will enable it to increase its grants to artists and nonprofit cultural groups across the state. 

According to a study commissioned by the Irvine Foundation, California has 11,000 arts and culture nonprofits, placing this state ahead of most nations in the world.

The California Arts Council provides grants to around 6 percent -- or roughly 700 organizations -- of the total field each year, and to between 60 - 70 percent of applicants to its programs.

Yet according to 2018 data from the National Association of State Arts Agencies, California ranks 38th in the United States for cultural funding, investing 46 cents per person in the arts. The national median is $1.03.

The state assembly will meet next week to vote on the proposal. The final budget decision is expected to come in June.  

UPDATE May 17: The senate budget committee voted to add $5 million to the Governor's $5 million May Revise budget increase, for a proposed $10 million onetime budget increase to the Arts Council.

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