Members of the Florida Cultural Alliance want lawmakers to give millions of dollars more in grant funding for arts and cultural programs throughout the state after years of declining contributions.
Alliance Lobbyist and Legislative Advisor Tony Carvalho said in a Tuesday conference call with members that arts organizations should watch the legislature closely in coming weeks as committees make their budget proposals.
“I would love to see $61 million, $62 million at that time, but I doubt we’re going to get there,” Carvalho said. “But it doesn’t mean the game is over because they always have reserves."
Former Florida Gov. Rick Scott slashed state grants for arts and culture programs last fiscal year to about $2.7 million, down from $43 million a few years earlier.
The cuts have adversely affected school music programs, history centers and museums, as well as performing arts programs.
Gov. Ron DeSantis earmarked $5 million in funding for cultural and museum grants in his budget, which proposes $91.3 million in spending.
“We think that is nowhere near enough,” state Democratic Rep. Carlos G. Smith said of the proposed grant funding during the Tuesday call.
Smith said his goal is to help his Republican colleagues at the Statehouse see funding arts and culuture programs as an investment in the economy, pointing out the impact on tourism revenue.
“We need to speak their language about the return on investment,” he said.
Mere weeks into her new job, Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee said she would do her part to talk funding with state lawmakers.
“I believe in what you all are doing,” Lee said after sharing personal stories about how the arts helped her in high school and positively influenced her own children.
The regular legislative session begins next week. Alliance members plan to lobby lawmakers at Arts and Culture Day March 12 and 13 at the Statehouse in Tallahassee.