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$16 Million NJ Arts Council Budget to Stay

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recommended slashing taxes and government spending in his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year on Tuesday. But he did not propose touching the $16 million budget that the New Jersey State Council on the Arts received in the last fiscal year.

Carolyn Clark, the director and one of the founders of the New Jersey Ballet Company, says that's still barely enough to keep arts groups afloat.

In the 1980s, her company received $220,000 from the Arts Council. "We were doing 70 to 80 performances state-wide. We were doing 60 educational programs. We were going to senior citizen's homes. We were doing so much and reached all 21 counties in New Jersey," Clark said. "Right now, the funding is at $90,000 and that's 23 years later...the dancers are pretty much at poverty-level income. And how much can you cut before the organization doesn't exist anymore?"

Christie is recommending that the New Jersey State Council on the Arts continue to receive $16 million in the next fiscal year. He is also proposing that the $2.7 million the New Jersey Historical Commission receives and the $500,000 that the New Jersey Cultural Trust gets remain untouched.

According to Christie’s budget proposal, the Arts Council will get some $4 million less than it would have under the Hotel/Motel State Occupancy Fee and Municipal Occupancy Tax, which was enacted in 2003 but not made mandatory. Under that formula, New Jersey arts and tourism programs would have received at least $28.2 million a year.

Last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed a preliminary $40 million cut to the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' budget in the coming fiscal year. President Barack Obama also recommended funding for the country's leading national endowments be cut by 13 percent.

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