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Nonprofits Push Back Against Budget Cutters

Courtesy Perry Hodies III
The historic Holland Theatre in the Ohio district of Rep. Jim Jordan was renovated with a federal grant from a program that the Republican lawmaker has targeted for elimination as part of a broader campaign to cut federal spending.

“Some worthwhile projects may go unfunded for a time, but that is the unfortunate price we must pay for Washington’s past irresponsibility,” the Congressman said.

Arts advocates will also be compiling lists for lawmakers of nonprofit arts organizations and for-profit operations such as dance studios and music stores in each Congressional district that they claim benefit directly or indirectly from the federal funding.

Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, said the group last week e-mailed lawmakers an explanation of the benefits of federal funding for the arts. The $167.5 million in annual grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, which the RSC wants to eliminate, generates $12.6 billion in tax revenue because of the jobs that it creates, Lynch said.

“We’ve been preparing the facts that we need to clarify misconceptions about the arts industry,” he said.

Resigned to steep cuts in the Republican-controlled House, some groups are focusing more of their attention on the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is expected to balk at many of the reductions.

“The critical decisions will be made in the Senate,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a new umbrella group that advocates for programs for low-income people.

The coalition on Friday held its first strategy session, which was attended by 150 representatives from service providers, faith groups and labor organizations, Weinstein said. Officials were particularly worried about efforts to cut federal aid for child care, job training and health care, she said.

With House Republicans saying they will not approve earmarks for specific projects in their Congressional districts, lobbyists for municipal governments are shifting their efforts to helping their clients obtain grants awarded by executive branch agencies.

“We are all over the competitive grant issue,” said Roger Gwinn, president of the Ferguson Group, which specializes in appropriations lobbying.

The Ferguson Group, whose clients include cities, transit and public water authorities, last year hired a new staffer to focus on competitive grants.

Gwinn and others said the last time the budget situation was this dire was in the mid-1980s, when the Reagan administration sought large reductions in programs. Despite the likelihood of spending restraints, Gwinn said he is hopeful that there will be some increase in infrastructure spending, as President Barack Obama has suggested.

But the lobbyist said it was unclear how Congress will deal with spending bills related to transportation and water projects, which are historically studded with earmarked projects.

Transportation groups are already lobbying for more funding as Congress takes up the surface transportation reauthorization bill this year. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association recently took out ads in inside-the-Beltway publications, citing a recent study on traffic congestion, and urged lawmakers to end the gridlock and pass “a robust multi-year/transit investment bill now!”

“Candidly, we see transportation as a core function of government,” said Jeff Solsby, a spokesman for the ARTBA.

The RSC targeted a number of  transit projects for cuts including Amtrak and Washington, D.C.’s Metro system. Paul Dean of the American Public Transit Association said various transportation groups were working together to maintain funding. Dean said he hopes the various interests will not be pitted against each other in a funding competition.

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