(Albany, NY)- After the devastating cuts to Arts, Parks, Living Museums, and Tourism in Governor David A. Paterson's proposed budget, Senator José M. Serrano (D-Manhattan/Bronx) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D- Setauket) are urging advocates to voice their concerns during a Joint Committee meeting on Arts Day 2010.
"We must join together as one unified voice to make sure our message is heard loud and clear," said Serrano. "Allowing these cuts to occur would be detrimental on an economic level, but what has been proposed would also deeply affect the health, spirit and integrity of New York's many diverse communities."
The Governor's proposal includes staggering cuts to the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), whose budget was cut by $9 million.
"It was our arts and cultural establishments that kept New York's tourism and economy afloat during lean economic times the past and they are likely to be our saviors once again," said Assemblyman Steve Englebright. "Failure to maintain funding for NYSCA will have a devastating effect upon cultural institutions, as well as many related or dependent businesses and employees."
"It is unacceptable for NYSCA's already miniscule budget to be further reduced," said Serrano. "The funding and programming this agency provides breathes life into many of New York State's cultural organizations."
Under Serrano's leadership as Chair of the Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation Committee, more than $4 million was restored to the budget of the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA). This totaled $7 million with federal funding support. In an unprecedented step, Serrano directed $250,000 in his potential discretionary funds, also known as member items or legislative grants, back to NYSCA for the purpose of grant-making activity.
The legislators also expressed concern for New York State Parks, whose funding was reduced by nearly $65 million in the Governor's proposed plan. Parks funding not only allows for health and safety improvements, but it is also used to restore historic sites, rehabilitate water systems, and improve certain roads and bridges.
"Our Parks system is our state's greatest natural resource. We cannot deprive New Yorkers of the health and economic benefits they generate, and we certainly cannot allow for unprecedented park closures to occur due to budgetary constraints," said the Senator.
Under Paterson's proposal, "I Love New York," the state's promotional tourism campaign, saw a $3.5 million cut in the proposed plan; and the state's Zoos, Botanical Gardens and Aquariums (also known as "Living Museums") would undergo a 44 percent cut. In the Governor's budget plan for 2009-2010, living museums were in danger of losing all of their state funding. However, the Legislature was able to restore 100 percent of the funding in the enacted budget.
"New York State is home to some of the most world renown and most celebrated zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums in the world," said Assemblyman Englebright. These types of institutions showcase the varied biodiversity in our state and in our world. They raise the quality of life, work in concert with our educators, introduce our children and our citizens to our natural world- regardless of status or wealth, sow the seeds of stewardship, and are dependable economic engines and tourism cornerstones for our cities and for the upstate regions."
During the Joint Committee Meeting in 2009, there was unprecedented and innovative response in what can be described as a day of firsts in Albany: the first-ever opportunity to submit commentary via YouTube; and the first time a Grammy award-winner has written a song about a committee meeting and then performed it live and the first time a bird "flew in" for a committee meeting. Inspired by last year's meeting, the legislators are looking forward to galvanizing support and encouraging advocacy for the Arts, Tourism, Parks, and Living Museums during difficult fiscal times.
"The character of New York is grounded in our Arts, Parks, and Living museums," said the Serrano. "These institutions anchor jobs, keep our communities healthy and happy, and in many cases preserve the history and culture of our great state."
***Supporters are encouraged to testify in person or submit relevant questions via YouTube video. To testify live, please contact Greg Meyer at (518) 455-2795 or via e-mail at GMeyer@senate.state.ny.us. YouTube submissions should email the website address for the video to Gmeyer@senate.state.ny.us. Senator Serrano and Assemblyman Englebright will have their responses recorded and posted on YouTube.***
**IMPORTANT: Please note that time is limited and we will not be able to accommodate everyone's request to testify live or via the internet**