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Legislative Committee Prioritizes $3.5 Million in Additional Grants Funding

After reviewing hundreds of requests for funding, the Business, Economic Development, and Labor Appropriations Subcommittee placed additional funding for cultural grants near the top of their funding recommendations.

The subcommittee unanimously recommended $3.5 million in ongoing grants funding for arts organizations and museums, slightly more than half of what was proposed by Gov. Gary Herbert in December. But even that amount would have a transformative effect on cultural funding in the state.

Committee members emphasized the importance of the increased grants for reducing the amount of direct requests legislators currently receive from organizations. In coming years, one of their criteria for any request from cultural groups is whether a qualifying organization applied for a grant first.

To underscore this message, many organizations that have typically received annual direct appropriations were given one more year of funding but will be urged to use grants in subsequent years.

“Our intent as a committee is to give notice to a number of our Heritage & Arts requests that we anticipate and appreciate that they will approach the [Division of Arts & Museums] grants program first,” Sen. Steve Sandall, R-Tremonton, the subcommittee co-chair, told the Executive Appropriations Committee.

The Executive Appropriations Committee, composed of legislative leaders from both parties, will consider the subcommittee recommendations in their final budget deliberations. Those talks are driven by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, as well as the governor’s office, and happen behind closed doors.

The session ends March 14, and final budget decisions should be announced near the end of the prior week.

Questions & Answers

Is the $3.5 million sufficient?

The $6 million proposal was very deliberate, as it equated 3 percent of the revenues for cultural organizations in this state. That amount would ensure dependable grants funding for organizations, which would hopefully encourage most of them to seek grants funding instead of direct legislative appropriations. The reduced amount still accomplishes the goal of providing dependable funding for most organizations, but it will take time to determine whether it accomplishes the stated goals of the committee members.

Will organizations be required to apply for grants instead of approaching the Legislature?

No. The Legislature controls the spending of state dollars, and they take that responsibility seriously. Committee members expressed concern that they would relinquish their fiscal responsibility by giving this much in grant money, but were assured that organizations could still choose to seek legislative appropriations. But whether they first sought grant funding would be one of the considerations.

Where does the governor stand on the $3.5 million recommendation?

Gov. Herbert has not revised his original budget proposal, nor has he discussed the recommendation publicly. As a division, we are still supportive of the $6 million proposal made Gov. Herbert. But that doesn’t mean we oppose the $3.5 million recommendation.

What can the public do now?

First and foremost, thank the legislators who serve on the Business, Economic Development, and Labor subcommittee for their hard work, diligent review, and thoughtful recommendation. Second, explain to legislative leaders why you believe the $3.5 million will make a difference, and how much more impact the full $6 million could have on communities throughout Utah.