In a 2018 federal budget “blueprint,” released today, President Trump renewed his bid to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).
The proposed cuts were largely expected, and follow Trump's initial March 16 budget proposal, which also zeroed out federal funding for the arts and libraries.
That proposal, first floated in January, met with significant resistance both from the public and lawmakers, and in a belated 2017 budget deal (which Trump signed on May 5) those agencies actually received small budget increases for the remainder of fiscal 2017, raising slim hopes that the President might change course and restore funding for 2018. The 2017 budget expires on September 30.
But today’s proposal, which aims to provide “lawmakers and the public with a view of the priorities of the President,” doubles down on efforts to eliminate arts and library funding, as well as support for numerous other key domestic programs, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and a $9 billion cut from the Department of Education (a 13% reduction). As Gary Price notes on Library Journal's Infodocket, "the few dollars that remain in the FY18 budget (in the case of the IMLS, 10% of the budget) are for closing down the agency."
Trump's 2018 budget instead seeks more funds for border security, and a massive $54 billion increase in defense spending. The proposal is the latest step in a complicated legislative process, and a more complete budget blueprint, including tax policy and other key fiscal proposals, is due to be released later this spring.
Meanwhile, in a related move, NEH chairman William Adams announced his resignation, effective today. In a release, Adams did not specifically address the 2018 budget, but said he was "encouraged that Congress and the President increased [NEH] funding for the current year," and that "the White House has initiated the process of bringing new political appointees to the agency."
At the 2016 American Library Association annual conference in Orlando, ALA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the NEH, where Adams reminded attendees that it is no accident that the NEH was established alongside the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act as part of of the “great society” legislative push.
“There is no democracy without the act of memory,” Adams told librarians adding that the “humanities and democracy are deeply and permanently intertwined in the history of the life of this country.”
Adams further noted libraries have long been a major recipient of NEH support, with the nearly 3,400 library grants awarded over the last 50 years totaling $515 million, plus another 80 grants to the ALA, beginning in 1971, most recently funding the ALA’s Great Stories Club program, which provides access to books to at-risk and underserved youth.
Deputy chair Margaret Plympton will serve as acting chair. NEH will announce its next round of grants following the meeting of the National Council on the Humanities in July.
The library community is also gearing up for the coming budget battle. In a statement today, ALA president Julie Todaro said the Trump administration is using the “wrong math” when it comes to libraries.
“America’s more than 120,000 public, school, academic and special libraries are visited more than 1.4 billion times a year by hundreds of millions of Americans in every corner of the nation,” Todaro said. “To those who say that the nation cannot afford federal library funding, the American Library Association, American businesses and millions of Americans say emphatically we cannot afford to be without it.”
Earlier this month, more than 500 librarians attended the ALA's National Library Legislative Day (NLLD), in Washington, D.C., an annual event that includes visits to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Already, more than a third of the House and Senate have signed a letter supporting full funding for the library community in 2018, and more than 80 major companies and trade associations have joined an effort to support federal library funding.
In his May 1 opening remarks at the ALA's NLLD event, ALA executive director Keith Fiels urged librarians and library supporters to stay engaged, warning that libraries face "the challenge of lifetime."
As for the NEA, spokesperson Liz Auclair told PW that the agency is fully funded for the year, and will continue to make grant awards and honor all obligated grant funds made to date.
"The President’s FY 2018 budget proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, with a request for $29 million intended to be used for the orderly shutdown of the agency," Auclair said, adding that budget request is "a first step" in a very long budget process. "We continue to accept grant applications for FY2018 at our usual deadlines and will continue to operate as usual until a new budget is enacted by Congress.”