Provide Funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts
The Legislature should provide funding for the Texas Commission on the Arts by issuing a special State of the Arts license plate.


Background
The Texas Commission on the Arts was created in 1965 to receive federal funds from the recently created National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Prior to 1965, there had been no direct federal or state government funding for the arts in Texas. Art groups were funded by private donations, their own operating revenues and the work of volunteers.

Every state established an arts agency to receive the federal aid from the NEA. Currently, 30 states maintain a separate arts agency. In the remaining states, arts agencies exist as divisions within departments of culture (six states), economic development (four states), education (three states), state (three states) and other departments (four states). 1

Originally created as the Fine Arts Commission, Texas Commission on the Arts is an independent agency. No state money was appropriated to the original Fine Arts Commission; the original $25,000 NEA grant was its sole source of funding. State funding began in 1967, when the Legislature directed the Fine Arts Commission to expand its role to include incorporating arts programs into the state s educational system and promoting community arts programs. In 1979, the Legislature reconstituted the Commission on the Arts as it exists today, with responsibility f or supplying financial aid, information and technical assistance to arts groups and assisting state agencies.

Total funding for the commission rose from $581,046 in fiscal 1977 to a peak of $6,162,078 in fiscal 1986 (Texas Sesquicentennial); subsequently funding declined to $3,832,679 in fiscal 1993. The commission s fiscal 1992 budget equated to an expenditure of just 19.2 cents per Texan, placing Texas last among the 50 states in arts funding; in the same year, national per-capita spending on state arts agencies averaged 85 cents. 2

State funding for the commission comes from the General Revenue Fund. General revenue appropriations for the commission peaked at $4,620,199 in fiscal 1986. For fiscal 1993, the commission received $3,241,079 in general revenue, which accounted for about 8 5 percent of the agency s total funding for the year. Federal funding for the commission in fiscal 1993 made up the remaining 15 percent of the budget.

The share of the commission s funding supplied by the federal governmen t has remained relatively constant over time; the largest amount of federal aid received by the commission was $1,025,000 in fiscal 1986, still slightly less than 17 percent of that year s budget. For fiscal 1993, the commission received $591,600 from the NEA.

NEA money is distributed to state arts agencies mainly through Basic State Grants, which must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar by state funds. All other NEA money is distributed on a competitive basis to artists, local arts groups and state arts agencies for additional programs. Only California and New York receive larger amounts of Basic State Grant funding than Texas, but significant increases in this funding are not expected for the foreseeable future.

The Commission on the Arts does not produce or organize any arts exhibitions or productions. However, its funding and its other services, such as providing assistance in seeking grants, have been crucial for many local arts organizations.

The NEA reported that Texas had the third-largest number of working artists among the states in 1989. Approximately 63,000 Texans list artist as their occupation on Census Bureau documents. 3

Recommendation
The Legislature should authorize the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) to issue a special license plate with the identification State of the Arts.

The registration fee for these license plates should be $25 in addition to the standard vehicle registration fee. The fee revenue generated should be dedicated to the Commission on the Arts. The commission should aggressively market the sale of these license plates to client groups.


Implications
The Commission on the Arts should work to increase its funding from the population most directly affected by its activities Texas working artists and arts patrons.

The response to other special license plates issued in Texas has been lackluster. This is partially due to the limited market for some plates and a lack of marketing efforts for others. For this reason, the commission should not be held to a target level in the first biennium.

This source of revenue is not anticipated to fully fund the commission, but effective marketing could raise a significant amount of revenue for commission programs. In the future, these sales might provide an alternative to other general revenue appropria tions.


Fiscal Impact
The amount of revenue that would be generated by this recommendation cannot be determined. The level of marketing and publicity generated by the commission and by local arts organizations wo uld be a critical element in the eventual success of this idea.



Endnotes
1 The Council of State Governments, State Administrative Officials Classified By Function 1990-91 (Lexington, Kentucky, 1990), pp. 21-22.
2 National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Summary of State Arts Agencies Grantmaking Activities (Washington, D.C., 1992), p. A-23.
3 National Endowment for the Arts, Research Division Note Number 33 Artist Employment in 1989 (Washington, D.C., 1990), p. 10.