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State Arts Council faces cut in budget

Thursday, February 07, 2002

By Caroline Abels, Post-Gazette Cultural Arts Writer

The state agency charged with distributing grants to arts organizations took a hit in Gov. Schweiker's proposed budget, announced Tuesday.

The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts would see a 9 percent reduction in its budget -- from $15.4 million to $14 million -- should the governor's spending plan be adopted by the legislature.

Philip Horn, executive director of the PCA, said the decrease would most likely mean a drop in the amount of grant money given to state arts groups, since grants are the largest part of the agency's budget.

Francine Feinerman, president of the Harrisburg lobbying group Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania, noted that arts funding "is a minute part of the overall state budget. However, any decrease will have enormous negative repercussions on the economic vitality of both rural and urban communities across the Commonwealth."

News of the proposed decrease came on the heels of an order by Schweiker that $1.4 million of the PCA's current funds be frozen to help balance the state budget. Because most PCA grant money for this year has either been distributed or committed, the PCA might be forced to reduce or rescind grants, Horn said.

"They probably will get [the grants], but they might get less," he said, adding that fellowship recipients aren't likely to be affected. "The important thing is to do it equitably and without driving people crazy."

But Horn said there's a chance that the amount of the freeze can still be reduced.

Although Schweiker's budget proposal would bring the PCA back to its 2000-01 funding level, Horn noted that the PCA's budget rose throughout the 1990s. At the beginning of Gov. Tom Ridge's administration, the PCA's budget was $9 million.

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