Trump’s 2019 Budget Aims to Zero Out Funding for the NEA and NEH—Again

The agencies avoided the reaper's scythe last year. Will they survive again?

A Congressional staff member delivers copies of US President Donald Trump's Fiscal Year 2019 Government Budget at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018. Photo Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.
A Congressional staff member delivers copies of US President Donald Trump's Fiscal Year 2019 Government Budget at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, February 12, 2018. Photo Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

With a tagline that reads “efficient, effective, accountable,” President Donald Trump’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 arrived on Congress’s doorstep on Monday. Weighing in at $4.4 trillion and 160 pages, the document proposes to greatly increase military spending while cutting entitlements such as Medicare and other domestic spending.

Following suit with his budget proposal for 2018, the 2019 document also proposes to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. But the budget is an early salvo in a long process of debate with Congress; the New York Times points out that “the blueprint… has little to no chance of being enacted as written,” and that it “amounts to a vision statement by Mr. Trump.”

In fact, last year, despite Trump’s proposal to eliminate the agencies, the NEA, NEH, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services all survived, and with modest funding increases (though not keeping up with inflation). Along the way, even a group of Republicans in the House of Representatives came out in favor of maintaining the agencies.

In a statement, the National Endowment for the Arts said it was “disappointed” by the president’s proposed budget. The agency pointed out that it has awarded some $26.7 million in grants throughout the US so far in fiscal year 2018. Among other activities, it has “issued a research report on the economic impact of the arts in rural communities… and distributed emergency funding to arts agencies in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.” The agency will “continue to operate as usual,” according to the statement.

The NEH released its own statement advertising its accomplishments during 2018 and saying that the agency is “continuing normal operations” for the time being. The agency will convene a meeting of its National Council in March, after which it will hand out the next round of fiscal year 2018 awards, according to NEH senior deputy chairman Jon Parrish Peede.

The IMLS’s statement also assures readers that it will “continue normal grantmaking operations with allocated FY 2018 funds.”

The next steps in the budget process will be the real test for the three agencies. The House and Senate will now each write and vote on their own budget resolutions. Then, appropriations committees in both chambers will determine the precise levels of funding before the budget is sent back to the president’s desk.


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