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Facing the most severe budget-cutting environment since the Reagan years, advocacy groups for nonprofit causes are mustering their forces to prod lawmakers to protect their pet programs.
“We’re starting to circle the wagons,” said Patrick Lally, director of Congressional affairs for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, whose restoration projects around the country could be imperiled if proposed spending reductions are enacted.
Advocates are compiling lists of key projects in Congressional districts, firing off urgent e-mail alerts to their membership and planning lobbying days at the Capitol.
They have been formulating economic arguments to bolster their case for federal help, whether it be the financial spinoff provided by historic preservation and arts projects or the loss of jobs on transit programs.
Although many GOP candidates campaigned on cutting the budget, many groups got a wake-up call last week when the Republican Study Committee unveiled specific program cuts as part of its plan to reduce federal spending by
$2.5 trillion over 10 years.
The RSC took aim at one of the historic preservation community’s top federal priorities, proposing to ax the Save America’s Treasures program and its $25 million annual budget for restoring structures and artifacts.
Lally said his organization is compiling a list of projects in key Congressional districts that were funded under this program. For example, Save America’s Treasures made a $197,221 grant in 2005 for the restoration of the Holland Theatre in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in the district of RSC Chairman Jim Jordan.
Kris Swisher, who heads the Holland Theatre Board of Directors, said the federal grant paid for a heating and cooling system and leveraged matching grants to complete the theater’s restoration.
She said that without the money, the theater would still be closed and wouldn’t be celebrating its 80th anniversary next month. The restoration, Swisher said, has helped revitalize the town center, which has lost three corporate operations in recent years.
Of the proposal to eliminate the federal historic preservation grant program, Swisher said, “That doesn’t sound like it should be used to compensate for overspending.”
Swisher said she is a Democrat and did not vote for Jordan, but he has attended events at the theater.
In an e-mailed statement, Jordan responded: “Decades of reckless Washington spending have pushed us to a crossroads. Just like any family that accumulates too much debt, Congress must now set priorities and cut back on the spending until our budget is back under control.”