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Arts Agencies Content With Restored Budgets

July 19, 1986|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

The tentative budgets unveiled this week for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and Institute for Museum Services bring these agencies back to where they were before the Gramm-Rudman budget-balancing law, and, at its first glance, the arts community is content.

"We're not thrilled, but we're pleased," said Anne Murphy, executive director of the American Arts Alliance in Washington.

The big question, however, is whether the budgets for fiscal 1987, beginning Oct. 1, will survive on the House floor.

Ignoring the stringent figures recommended by the Reagan Adminstration, the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Sidney R. Yates (D-Ill.), approved budgets for the three agencies at fiscal 1986 levels--before the imposition of the mandatory 4.3% cuts under the Gramm-Rudman law.

At the same time, the Yates subcommittee rejected Reagan plans to demolish museum services for the sixth year in a row.

The "mark-up" of the new appropriations bill for the Interior Department and related agencies at a public session Wednesday budgeted the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) at $165.7 million, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at $138.6 million and the Institute for Museum Services (IMS) at $21.4 million.

"We considered those amounts necessary to take care of the requirements" of those agencies, Yates said.

Under Gramm-Rudman requirements, NEA currently operates at $158.5 million, NEH at $132.7 million and IMS at $20.5 million.

"Obviously we're very pleased, particularly regarding IMS," said Edward Able, the new executive director of the American Assn. of Museums. "And in an era when most agencies are receiving cuts, that something is restored is quite remarkable."

However, concern is brewing that a 5% cut, similar to that given another appropriations bill Thursday night, might be imposed when the budget bill for the Interior Department and related agencies including the arts and humanities agencies comes to the floor. A vote is scheduled July 30.

On an amendment by Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.), the 5% cut was approved by a 2-to-1 margin for the State, Commerce and Justice departments (excepting the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Adminstration).

"I don't know that the same thing will face other appropriations bills that come to the floor; I hope not," said Yates.

"Each bill is treated on its own particular merits," a Yates subcommittee source noted. "It may be our bill will look good. It may be our bill will have a problem."

The key vote is expected to be in the House, as the Senate tends to follow the House's lead.

Another potential problem revolves around an issue of alleged pornography. Last year, Yates' subcommittee recommended $175 million for the National Endowment for the Arts. But when the bill came to the floor last summer, there was a surprise fight led by Reps. Richard K. Armey and Thomas D. DeLay, both Texas Republicans, who charged that the NEA was awarding matching grants to certain literary presses that the congressmen maintained were anti-religious and pornographic. They succeeded in getting the endowment's figure reduced.

"Last year our bill was threatened and we were able to come to an agreement," Yates noted. "This year DeLay told me he would not (make it an issue), and Armey told me he hadn't made up his mind."

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