Budget panel breaks with Haley on cutting arts funding

A House Ways and Means panel listens to Ken May's testimony
A House Ways and Means panel listens to Ken May's testimony
A crowded room for the hearing
A crowded room for the hearing

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Members of a legislative budget-writing panel say they disagree with Gov. Nikki Haley's call to eliminate state funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Dance, drama, and even music could all end on a sour note if the commission loses its state funding. Executive director Ken May urged a House Ways and Means panel on Wednesday not to follow the Republican governor's suggestion.

South Carolina Philharmonic conductor Morihiko Nakahara stood in a room packed with supporters for the arts who felt Haley's request to eliminate money for the Arts Commission and ETV would have a detrimental affect on the creative industry that could stand to lose even more than its state support.  

"If there was no support from the state level I would wager that the private sector will not step up," said Nakahara. "Their support might decline as well." That decline could leave programs unable to survive and on the cutting room floor.

Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston chairs the panel and says it's unfair to pick out a couple of agencies to zero-out. He notes the state would save just $2 million by not funding the arts commission, and he said that won't get far in bridging the state's $829 million budget gap. Limehouse says the better option is to further cut the commission's budget.

May said the commission handed out $2.2 million in grants to 40 South Carolina counties. According to May, the creative community brings $9.2 billion to the state and supports 78k jobs that could all be eliminated if funding for the arts is discontinued.

Rep. Joseph Neal vowed to stand for arts and say no to Governor Haley's request. "The arts commission is the cultural signature of South Carolina and as such we need to be very careful," said Neal.

This is one fight Nakahara says the General Assembly hasn't heard the last of. "One thing I can tell you about the creative people impacted and touched by the arts, we are a vocal people so there will be movements."

In her State of the State address, Haley said funding should be eliminated for the Arts Commission and South Carolina Education Television.

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.