Rippy will try to preserve arts funding
DENVER – The man who represents the Roaring Fork Valley in the Colorado House of Representatives said Monday he will try to prevent the state from gutting a program that funds arts projects throughout the state.
Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs said he will probably be one of the few Republicans to break rank with the party and vote to continue funding the Colorado Council on the Arts.
“I’m going to have to get Democrats to do this. This is not a Republican issue,” said Rippy.
The 2003-04 budget bill introduced on Monday by legislators from the Senate and House proposed eliminating all funding to the state arts council. They justified the move by saying the weak economy has forced them to cut into the state budget’s “meat and bones.”
Rippy said many Republicans in the House support the arts but don’t think they should be funded by the state, particularly when $3 billion has been trimmed over three years.
But arts advocates contend that a contribution to the state arts council is an investment in Colorado because it helps promote tourism and jobs. Rippy agreed.
“Sixty percent of the tourists that come to Colorado engage in some arts or cultural activity,” Rippy said.
In addition, if the state contributes at least $613,000 to the arts, the amount will be matched with federal dollars. Rippy said that matching grant makes state dollars a wise investment.
The Colorado Council on the Arts provides grants to individual artists and to groups in every county in the state, said executive director Fran Holden. For example, the Aspen Art Museum received funds for an outreach program to school kids, she said.
The council’s $1.9 million budget was whittled away to about half that amount last year by Gov. Bill Owens and the Legislature when tough economic times hit the state.
This year, the Joint Budget Committee has proposed paring the entire $964,000 for the arts council out of the state general fund. The committee also proposed canning a program to spend $10 million to promote tourism. Owens wants to spend those funds to market the state.
Rippy said he supports preserving at least some of the funds to promote tourism, and he supports taking money for the Colorado Council on the Arts out of those tourism dollars. He supports budgeting the $613,000 the arts council needs to earn matching federal dollars.
Holden labeled Rippy’s support as “vital” to the effort to retain funding for the arts council. He is one of the few Republicans to support funding plus he heads the Legislative Cultural Caucus, Holden said.
Arts advocates held a rally outside the capitol Monday morning to coincide with the introduction of the budget in the senate. The proposed budget will be debated in the Senate this week, then passed to the House. Holden said arts organizations also have champions in the Senate. All legislators will be targeted this week by correspondence asking them to support funding for the arts, she said.
If the budget remains as proposed, Colorado will be the first state to completely eliminate state funding for the arts.
“It’s sending a wrong message about Colorado’s commitment to the arts,” said Holden.
Rippy hopes to change that message.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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