(originally published in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript in 2009, while Peter was serving on the House Finance Committee)
The Peterborough arts community together with the entire state arts community made their opposition to the Governor’s budget reductions to the Arts Council loud and clear to the NH House Finance committee. The Governor cut nearly half of the arts budget which will eliminate at least four positions and cut programs.
The State Arts Council budget was not alone. Deep cuts were made at Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Environmental Services to name a few. Earlier in March the entire NH House Finance committee held hearings across the State (in Salem, Whitefield, Claremont and Concord) to receive testimony on the Governor’s budget. We heard testimony from hundreds of NH residents and not one person supported any of the cuts proposed by the Governor. That being said, the Governor is required to submit a balanced budget to the legislature and in these difficult times making budget cuts to any agency, department, or branch of government is extremely unpopular. To make matters worse, the revenues we count on such as the real estate transfer tax, the rooms and meals tax, and the interest and dividends tax have fallen off sharply.
Since receiving the Governor’s budget in February, the Governor’s revenue projections have continued to erode due to a continued decline in revenue estimates for FY 2010-2011. Even with the additional budget cuts to the Governor’s budget made by the Finance committee and with a number of new tax proposals and fee increases, the two year budget is nearly $130 million short of being balanced as of this past Friday (March 27, 2009).
Are legislators listening when is comes to the budget reductions to the Arts Council? Yes. After receiving testimony from dozens of NH Arts supporters and from testimony received before the Finance Committee – Division 1, which oversees the budget for the State Arts Council, we restored $150,000. These restored funds will be used to secure matching federal funds for projects supported and approved by the Arts Council.
The legislature will continue to struggle with difficult choices due to this economic crisis and every cause or program has its passionate supporters who will continue to press the legislature for limited funds. The Arts play a very important economic and cultural role in New Hampshire; Peterborough being an excellent example.
These are very difficult times, however, I am optimistic that better times are ahead and private and public support of the Arts will continue.