Under pressure from the state's arts community, Gov.Dannel P. Malloy reversed positions Thursday and will restore funding to numerous organizations — 80 percent of their previous year's amount plus money to be allocated through a competitive process.
The move came a day after a public hearing in which many of the top arts and tourism leaders in the state — from the Mystic Aquarium, Waterbury's Palace Theatre, New Haven's Shubert Theatre and others — came to the state Capitol to voice their displeasure about Malloy's proposed cuts of more than $11 million from the arts.
Each of the organizations with a specific line-item in the state budget saw their allocation sliced to zero — prompting the sharp response from the arts community.
But by Thursday afternoon, Malloy's budget chief, Ben Barnes, released a statement saying the administration now "guarantees existing earmark recipients will receive 80 percent of the allocation they received the prior year, with the remainder being allocated on a competitive basis.''
The leaders in the arts community and their supporters had been stunned by Malloy's initial plan to make cuts as of July 1. More than 20 different programs had been slated to receive no state funding at all, with zeros placed next to their names in Malloy's proposed $20.7 billion budget. The groups have already set their fiscal plans for the 2012 calendar year, and were surprised to suddenly learn that their state funding could disappear.
The cuts included $2.1 million for the Connecticut Humanities Council, nearly $800,000 for the New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas, $630,000 for the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford, $620,000 for Mystic Aquarium and $530,000 for the Maritime Center Authority in Norwalk. Malloy also was seeking to slice $378,000 each from the Amistad vessel, the Stamford Center for the Arts, the Palace Theatre in Waterbury and the Discovery Museum in Bridgeport.
The groups would have been permitted to compete for $14 million from a state fund, but the details of how the competitive process would work were still unclear Wednesday.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, told legislators on the appropriations committee Wednesday that Malloy was "moving away from an earmarked, line item by line item grant" for the arts.
On Thursday, she said she will provide details next month on developing a competitive process so that there would be proper scrutiny of the millions of dollars that goes out to the arts community.
"Our goals in making these changes are simple,'' Barnes said on Thursday in a statement. "We want to create a system that demands accountability standards and sets performance benchmarks for organizations that receive state money. The current system of simply allocating an earmark does not do that. It does not ask the organization to disclose how that money is being spent, how much the funding provided by the state contributes to the entirety of that organization's budget or how many people take part in a given exhibit or event.''
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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