Senator Portantino, Lawmakers & Arts Advocates Rally for Arts Funding


Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank), joined advocates and lawmakers today to rally support for the restoration of more than $22 million in proposed cuts to state arts funding. The current budget proposal would implement a $10 million cut to the California Arts Council and eliminate $12.5 million in funding for SB 1116, legislation authored by Senator Portantino which created the performing arts Equitable Payroll Fund.

“Although we recognize that the state faces a challenging budget deficit, we have made significant progress in the last several years to support the nonprofit arts community,” stated Senator Portantino. “I want to thank Governor Newsom for this progress – specifically for his support of SB 1116, the Equitable Payroll Fund to support our small community theaters. However, we also want to recognize that cuts to critical arts programming will devastate small nonprofit theatres and thousands of young people who turn to creative outlets for expression. Rural communities and communities of color will see the most negative impact. Our vibrant arts community drives much of our creative economy and I will continue to advocate for funding to keep this industry thriving.”

SB 1116 (2022) established the Equitable Payroll Fund (EPF), a grant program designed to support Small Nonprofit Arts Organizations (SNPAOs) with budgets under $2M and workers by providing substantial reimbursements of payroll expenses.

The program supports jobs for anyone hired as an employee by a SNPAO, including both production and non-production employees and administrative staff. The EPF would provide the greatest percent reimbursement to the smallest organizations. As SNPAOs grow, the percentage of payroll expenses that is reimbursed decreases as organizations are better able to absorb these costs. When an SNPAO reaches $2M, they graduate out of the program.

“It is unthinkable that California would fall to 45th in the nation when it comes to funding for the arts, trailing behind Alabama and Florida. The California Arts Council’s budget is already too small to meet the needs of this state with close to 850,000 workers employed in the arts and culture industry alone. In the 2023 grant cycle, roughly 54% of applicants were denied due to a lack of available funding. If this program is cut further, this will have a devastating impact on the field, especially in rural communities and communities of color,” said Julie Baker, CEO of California Arts Advocates.

The current $10 million cut to the California Arts Council represents a greater than 38% reduction to its $26 million grants budget, a base level that has not increased in more than 7 years. It would reduce funding to the same level as 1989-1990 without adjusting for inflation while the general fund has more than doubled. This budget reduction would put CA 45th in the United States for per capita funding for the arts.

“As an actor, I see it firsthand that when people go to see live arts events, they generate economic activity – everything from spending on dinner and drinks to parking and childcare,” said Brian Herndon, an actor and member of Actors’ Equity Association. “I’ve also lived the consequences of inadequate arts funding, having just recently had a show canceled over lack of funding. The Equitable Payroll Fund is a groundbreaking program that supports live arts workers at smaller, nonprofit companies and was approved just a few years ago with a strong, bipartisan vote from the Legislature. Governor Newsom and the Legislature need to restore both this critical funding for the arts and cuts to the Arts Council.”

    Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center