|Senate Defeats Arts Cut-Off, Postpones Parks Funding
By Tom McClimon
The Senate postponed further action on the Interior Appropriations bill until after its August recess. Before recessing on August 6th, the Senate defeated an amendment to eliminate all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Time limitations and the debate on the tax bill prevented the Senate by considering amendments to restore funding for urban parks.
The Senate demonstrated its support for the arts by solidly defeating an amendment offered by Senator Bob Smith (NH) to eliminate all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Smith argued that funding for the NEA should be eliminated and that the arts should be funded by private sources and that federal funding was unconstitutional. Opposition to the Smith amendment was led by Senator Slade Gorton (WA) who argued that the arts deserved that same consideration as education and that NEA had undertaken many reforms to meet past Congressional criticisms. Supporters of the NEA are expected to offer amendments to increase funding for the arts agency once the Senate resumes consideration of the Interior Appropriations bill. Without further increases, the NEA is set to receive at least $99 million. The House as already approved $98 million for the agency.
The Senate recessed before being able to consider two amendments to restore funding for urban parks. The first amendment, to be offered by Senator Frank Murkowski (AK) and others, would fund the state and local assistance program of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $30 million. The second amendment, to be offered by Senator Robert Torricelli (NJ) and others would seek $4 million for the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program. In a letter sent to each Senator, the Conference's top three officers - Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb, Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, and New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial - wrote "The nation's mayors strongly urge you to support the amendments to the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program. The favorite park for Americans often is not a national park, like Yellowstone or Yosemite, but the neighborhood park where parents take their children to play, senior citizens enjoy the outdoors, and young people participate in recreational opportunities. These parks, greenways, baseball and soccer fields, and recreation centers are part of the daily lifestyle of millions of Americans nationwide."
Mayors are encouraged to talk to their Senators during the August recess and seek their support of these two amendments when Congress returns after Labor Day.