The sudden tempest over state funding for arts and cultural heritage groups continues.
House Republicans on Wednesday defended their move to strip away specific Legacy money allocations to arts and cultural groups – such as Minnesota Public Radio and the Minnesota Zoo – and said those groups should not expect to automatically get money every year.
“The most disappointing thing I’ve heard in this process is people feeling that it now becomes money that they’re going to count on year in and year out,” said Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron. “[These groups believe], ‘We got $3 million last year. So, we want $5 million this year.’
“This [money] is for new possibilities, and for better things and a better Minnesota,” said Quam.
Quam’s comments came as the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance panel debated this year’s Legacy legislation, which uses state sales tax money to fund outdoors, clean water, parks and trails and arts and cultural heritage projects.
Although most organizations have to compete for Legacy money, several high-profile arts and cultural heritage groups had been given separate, direct appropriations. Over the next two years, public television was being recommended to get $7.8 million and an assortment of minority groups, including the Council on Black Minnesotans, were to share $1 million.
But Republicans, who hold new majorities in the House and Senate, suddenly changed the legislation on Tuesday, saying there would be no special appropriations and that almost all groups would now have to compete for Legacy dollars. DFLers said the change came because Republicans did not have enough votes to pass a bill that for example included money for MPR, an organization that some Republicans see as having a liberal bias.
“Funding last year for [the] last cycle did not necessarily guarantee funding for this cycle,” said Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Nelson Township, in explaining the change. “Setting up a competitive grant program really puts people to the test, frankly.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he added.  

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