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Davis proposes deep budget cuts for California Arts Council

May 16, 2003|Christopher Reynolds | Times Staff Writer

In his search for cuts to balance the state budget, Gov. Gray Davis has taken a second look at the California Arts Council -- and a second swing.

Looking to close an overall deficit now estimated at $38.2 billion, Davis is calling for cuts that would slash the CAC's funding from $22.4 million this year to $8.4 million in the 2003-04 fiscal year.

CAC officials, who got the word as part of the governor's "May revise" of the budget on Wednesday, say the proposal means, once federal pass-along funds are excluded, that the agency's grants to artists and arts organizations would shrivel from $18.4 million this year to $5 million next year.

The governor's proposal awaits debate in the Legislature, but CAC officials did not hesitate in voicing alarm.

Barbara George, the Davis appointee who chairs the CAC, said in a statement that she was "deeply disturbed."

If Davis' numbers stand, said CAC spokesman Adam Gottlieb, about half of the agency's three dozen employees are likely to lose their jobs, and half of the agency's grant recipients statewide are likely to get nothing. CAC programs supporting artist residencies and traditional folk arts would be suspended.

The reductions follow several belt-tightening moves since 2001, when the 26-year-old agency's budget peaked at $32 million. Until this week, it faced proposed cuts of about 50% from last year; the new numbers would mean a further reduction.

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