Increase the Arts Budget!

Guest Commentary

Volume CI, No. 3March, 2001

NYS Senator Roy M. Goodman

The case for public funding of the arts in New York is both cultural and economic. The intellectual and spiritual enrichment provided by the arts is incalculable. They improve quality of life, teach us to think, see, feel and understand. These important purposes are sufficient in themselves to warrant significant public investments in the arts.

But there is more. For the arts also produce directly, and in related allied areas, resulting in gains to the economy from increases in institutional spending, tourism, increased household spending, and spending by industries that supply the arts groups. This means that public funding of the arts is returned many times over in direct yields, in other forms of equity, in volunteerism and in direct investment.

The most important recent economic studies found that the arts contributed a dramatic $13.4 billion to the State economy in 1995 (about 3 percent of the gross State product, and roughly equal to the construction industry) and that the State collected $480 million in sales, business and income taxes as those funds were earned and spent.

Every segment of the arts community can point to successes that are both aesthetic and economic. Each also contributes to the economic return on public monies invested in the arts, from the 68-to-1 return of nonprofit theatres to the $5.3 billion economic impact of nonprofit institutions on New York’s economy reported for 1995.

A recent study by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) says that in 1995, nonprofit cultural institutions raised $9 for every $1 contributed by the agency, and had a total direct economic impact of over $4 billion.

The bottom line is that the arts contribute significantly to the economy, employing hundreds of thousands of people, and are responsible for hundreds of thousands more jobs in related or allied industries, from hotels to restaurants to suppliers, transportation, parking and shopping. The significant impact of the arts on the economy of New York State is shown by several recent major studies, and by an examination of employment data.

As Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Arts and Cultural Affairs, I am currently urging an increase in the arts budget of $7 million over last year’s level, bringing the annual total to $60 million. Last year’s expenditures totaled $53 million.

Within the context of an $80 billion budget, $60 million is a minuscule amount – but it packs a large wallop since the arts generate over $13 billion for the State’s economy. By acting as a magnet for thousands of tourists every week, the arts are responsible for increases in retail sales and hotel business.

Governor George Pataki has been a tremendous booster for the arts in the past, and we are certain that he will once again see fit to increase his initial allocation, which has always been just a starting point for progress.