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Gov. Jindal exorcizes arts funds from Louisiana budget

March 30, 2009 |  3:36 pm

Jindal_tv_shot_associated_press When Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal gave the now-infamous televised Republican response to President Obama's Congressional address in February, he mocked the inclusion of "something called 'volcano monitoring' " in the economic stimulus bill. "Instead of monitoring volcanoes," Jindal said, "what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington."

Twenty-six days later, Alaska's Mt. Redoubt began to erupt, spreading volcanic ash all over Anchorage and egg all over Jindal's face.

Now Gov. Jindal has proposed a $26.7-billion state budget for next year that makes painful but necessary program cuts to deal with a $1.3-billion drop in his state's general fund income. According to the Associated Press, "The largest cuts would fall on health care and education programs.... The state's health department would be cut $413 million, or 5%; public colleges would be trimmed $219 million, or nearly 8%; and the education department would lose $141 million, or nearly 3%."

Unmentioned by the AP is the fate the Louisiana Decentralized Arts Fund, a competitive program that makes small grants ranging from $500 to $10,000 to arts and cultural projects in every parish of the state. The arts fund will lose just a couple of million dollars -- chump change compared to the big numbers cited above.

Except, that is, when you look at the percentages. WWL-TV reported today the arts fund would be whacked a whopping 83% -- effectively putting the program out of business. The arts, not health and education, are taking the largest cuts by a factor of 10.

Shocking, I know. Who could imagine a Republican politician wanting to wipe out public arts funding?

Gov. Jindal challenged arts funding in the president's stimulus package a few weeks back on "Larry King Live."  "Fundamentally, I don't think ... $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts is going to get the economy moving again as quickly as allowing the private sector to create jobs," he said.

The governor did not explain how the minuscule NEA boost -- which Congress ultimately approved -- would hinder job creation in the arts, public or private.

--Christopher Knight

Photo: Associated Press

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