California Legislature Restores 75% of Previously Announced Funding Cuts to the Arts

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State Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Senate President Prop Tempore Senator Mike McGuire revealed last week that agreement has been reached on a legislative budget that restores approximately 75% of state funding for the arts that had been cut earlier last month by Governor Newsom in his May revise budget. Restored funds include $12.5 million to the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund and $5 million to the California Arts Council, which in turn provides grants to small arts nonprofits.

The turnaround followed an aggressive campaign from arts advocates, employers and unions, who sent more than 9,000 letters to the Legislature, held over 30 meetings, and organized a press conference outside the Capitol. More than 400 organizations signed a letter led by CA Arts Advocates, Actors’ Equity Association and the Theatre Producers of Southern California opposing the cuts.

“I recognize that the state faces a challenging budget deficit and we have to make some adjustments,” stated Senator Portantino, author of the legislation that enacted SB1116, the Equitable Payroll Fund, in 2023. “We made significant progress in the last several years to support the nonprofit arts community and cuts to critical arts programming would be devastating. However, I am encouraged that our legislative leaders have agreed to restore $12.5 million in funding for SB 1116 and $5 million to the California Arts Council. I will continue to advocate to keep this industry thriving, as it drives much of our creative economy.”

“This agreement by the Legislature to restore full funding to the Equitable Payroll Fund and add funding to the California Arts Council is a recognition that when people go to see live arts events, they generate economic activity and that investing in the arts is a positive return on investment for the state,” said Actors’ Equity Association executive director Al Vincent Jr. “I want to thank Senator Portantino and Assemblymemeber Mike Gipson for their leadership in fighting to restore these cuts, and I look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature on sustaining this funding so that California can stand by its arts workers.”

“We are grateful that the California Legislature has moved to restore 75% of the proposed funding cuts to the Arts,” agreed Theatre Producers of Southern California board president Martha Demson. “We particularly appreciate the Legislature’s recognition that arts jobs are real jobs, with their move to restore $12.5 million for the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund program implementation.  We want to thank Senator Portantino for his steadfast leadership over the past three years, and for his work together with Assemblymember Gipson, to restore these cuts that would otherwise have had a devastating impact on a vulnerable sector. We understand that we are in a very difficult budget year, but do hope that the legislature will continue to look for ways to restore the additional $5 million to the CAC budget.”

“While we appreciate the work the Legislature has done to restore 75% of the arts funding cuts, and that California Arts Council (CAC) local assistance funding will be restored to the $26M in 2026-27, there is more work to be done, with $5 million in cuts still on the table at the CAC this year and next,” said CA Arts Advocates CEO Julie Baker. “Today was an important first step, but California cannot truly be a national leader in supporting arts workers when the CAC is below where funding was in the year 2000. We look forward to building on this progress and hope in final negotiations restoring the $5 million, a relatively small amount for the budget but huge for the arts statewide, will still be considered.”

“I support the Legislature’s budget proposal that will preserve the function of the California Arts Council and maintain current plans for the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund,” said Assembly member Mike Gipson. “I am still disheartened that this proposal continues to reduce funding for arts organization grants by $10 million over the next two fiscal years, as these grants are crucial to many culturally diverse communities throughout the state; however, I appreciate that funding for the Arts Council will be restored in 2026-27. These programs are vital to our creative economy and essential to the mental health of many Californians. We all need to continue pushing for artists’ voices to be heard, and we look to our drum majors like actor Danny Glover when he addressed the Legislature earlier today, to advocate for the full restoration of funds allocated to the arts.”
 

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