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Arts, Historical Leaders Fear Texas Budget Cuts

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Proposed cuts in funding for state-supported arts and historical commissions could be disastrous for the groups, their supporters contend.

    Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday proposed eliminating state funding for the Texas Historical Commission and the Texas Commission on the Arts as a way to help deal with the state's projected $15 billion shortfall in the next two-year budget period.

    The arts agency's current budget is $14.8 million, with 9 percent from the state's general revenue fund. The Texas Historical Commission's budget tops $100 million, with 20 percent from the general revenue fund, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

    "We recognize that some cuts are necessary statewide and that this agency will be affected," said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the Historical Commission . "We welcome the opportunity to do our part in assisting legislative leaders in prioritizing the state's needs as they apply to this agency. Our historic resources are a vital part of our future and can contribute a solution to the state's economic difficulties."

    Gary Gibbs, executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts, says the group's impact is statewide.

    "Our support of arts organizations throughout the state benefits all communities and attracts business," according to Gibbs.

    Dissolving the arts commission would have the greatest impact on small and rural communities, said Amy M. Barbee, executive director of the Texas Cultural Trust, which promotes the arts.

    "Arts and culture industries generate $4.5 billion in taxable sales," said Barbee, referring to a study released Monday by the trust and paid for with federal stimulus funds. "That is a big return on investment."

    The Historical Commission operates 20 state historical sites, including the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Caddo Mounds in East Texas, President Dwight Eisenhower's birthplace in Denison and the restored Fort McKavett in Menard County.

    The historical agency also successfully fought first lady Anita Perry's plan to build a controversial addition onto the Texas Governor's Mansion. The state agreed to build a smaller addition. No one has been charged over the 2008 arson fire that damaged the unoccupied mansion during renovations.