While the arts are known to amplify the skills and knowledge an individual absorbs, the current culture needs to work on helping maintain a clear vision of the immeasurable benefits the arts offer. With arts nonprofits relying heavily on government funding, this past May saw California arts nonprofits feel the impact of the country’s declining views on the value of the arts when Governor Gavin Newsom presented his May Revision proposal for the 2024-2025 State Budget – which hit the arts the hardest. Yet, despite Newsom’s plans, recent California legislation helped restore 75% of lost funds to arts nonprofits.

Newsom’s revised plans for the state’s budget proposed cutting the state’s innovative Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fun ($12.5 million), approved just a few years ago and is a groundbreaking approach to supporting live arts workers at smaller, nonprofit companies. Also, Newsom’s plans included reducing the state’s grant funding for small arts nonprofits through the California Arts Council (CAC), which provides grants to small arts nonprofits by 38% ($10 million). 

Julie Baker, CEO of CA Arts Advocates, stated, “While we understand that every agency and sector must play their part to balance the budget with a 7.95% reduction across nearly all departments, the additional cuts to arts and culture are massively disproportionate. We had hoped we were long past the days when the arts were the first to be cut and undervalued.”

What followed the governor’s proposed plans was a powerful and united campaign from arts advocates, employers, and unions. They collectively sent over 9,000 letters to the Legislature, held over 30 meetings, and organized a press conference outside the capitol. The campaign, which saw more than 400 organizers sign a letter of opposition to the cuts, was a shining example of unity and collaboration. It was led by the California Arts Advocates, Actors’ Equity Association, and the Theatre Producers of Southern California, and their collective efforts were instrumental in the restoration of arts funding. 

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State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Burbank), author of legislation that enacted SB 1116, the Equitable Payroll Fund, in 2023, expressed, “I recognize that the state faces a challenging budget deficit, and we have to make some adjustments… We have made significant progress in the last several years to support the nonprofit arts community, and cuts to critical arts programming would be devastating.”

California State Assembly speaker Robert Rivas and Senate President pro Tempoore Senator Mike McGuire announced in June that they had reached an agreement on a legislative budget that restores approximately 75% of state funding for the arts. The budget includes $12.5 million for the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund and $5 million for the CAC.

Expressing gratitude for Senator Portantino, as well as Assemblymember Mike Gipson, for their leadership and support to restore funds was Actors’ Equity Association executive director, Al Vincent Jr., stating, “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.”

Also grateful for the restoration is Martha Demson, president of the Theatre Producers of Southern California. Demson expressed, “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.”