Texas House Moves to Defund Arts Commission

Lawmakers in the Texas house approved a budget amendment to defund the state Commission on the Arts today. It was an extremely close vote in which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle expressed their hesitation to gut the commission. Laurie Johnson has more.

Back in early February in his State of the State speech, Governor Rick Perry listed the Texas Commission on the Arts as one of the state agencies he thinks should be eliminated.

Today, the Texas House of Representatives agreed, but only by a handful of members.

The 67-61 vote pulls all of the commission's remaining $3.5 million in funding and diverts it to elderly and disabled
services.

But some lawmakers argued that amount is a drop in the bucket of human services funding and won't make enough
of a difference to justify defunding the agency.

Michelle Smith is Executive Director of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company.She's one of many local arts representatives who lobbied in Austin for continued arts funding.

"We won't be able to make up the lack of that funding in ticket sales. The general public, I don't think, will be able to absorb that cost. So if we can't make up those, that means the smaller companies will start downsizing — less choreographers, less dancers."

Smith says she worries the defunding indicates a mindset among lawmakers that the arts aren't important.

"You know, once the government starts saying it's okay not to support this, other people follow along."

Smith says the arts are low on the hierarchy of legislative priorities and she's not surprised by the decision made in
the house.

The Texas Senate still has to vote on the measure and could decide not to completely cut the agency.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...