South Dakota arts leaders fighting for funding

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Funding for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra could be in jeopardy. President Trump is proposing eliminating the National Endowment for the Arts. A South Dakota Arts Council leader traveled to Washington to urge lawmakers to reject the president's request.

"South Dakotans believe in the power of the arts," says Jim Speirs, executive director for Arts South Dakota. Speirs is in Washington with a message for his lawmakers: reject President Trump's 2019 budget proposal calling for elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA provides roughly 150 million federal dollars to arts programs nationwide. Speirs says the funding is crucial to local groups, like the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra: "our national budget must reflect the values of our nation. And we know that Americans, specifically South Dakotans, believe in the arts."

Speirs says for every one dollar invested in South Dakota arts, there's nearly a 25 dollar return. He says his lawmakers, like Senator Mike Rounds understand the cultural and economic importance of the NEA. Last year, the president also proposed eliminating the NEA. But Congress ultimately increased funding. "That's probably a pretty good message out there that Congress is going to make the decisions with regard how much we put into the National Endowment for the Arts," says Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD).

Final budget decisions are in the hands of Congress, but Ryan Bourne form the Libertarian Cato Institute says spending is out of control, and cuts are necessary: "there's no real requirement or duty imposed on the government to engage in arts funding."

Bourne wants to know why low-earning taxpayers have to fund arts programs that don't matter to them. He says if art is important to a community, they should find the money to fund it.

"If these activities are worthwhile," says Bourne, "and there's a demand for them out there, then actually people should be able to find funding either in the private marketplace or in the charitable sector."

Congress still has to finalize the 2018 budget before they move onto the 2019 budget proposal. In Washington.

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