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Grant Funding Given Committee Approval at $3.5 Million

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A significant funding increase for arts and museums grants took an important step towards becoming reality Tuesday, albeit in a slightly smaller package.

The Business, Economic Development, and Labor appropriations subcommittee approved a priority spending list that included $3.5 million in new grants funding. While lower than the original $6 million that Gov. Gary Herbert proposed, it is still a significant amount that more than triples the current state appropriation for arts and museums grants.

The recommendations from the subcommittee will be submitted to the Executive Appropriations Committee, which is made up of the legislative leaders who make the final budget decisions. (Read more about the prioritization process.)

Members of the subcommittee from both parties spoke about their general support for the increased grants pool, which many hope will mean to a reduction in the number of organizations making direct requests to the Legislature.

To encourage that transition, the subcommittee shifted the appropriations for a number of larger organizations from ongoing to one-time funding. Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, said in the future legislators will consider whether an organization first applied for grant funding when they review requests for a direct appropriation. While “nothing will preclude” the organizations from seeking a legislative appropriation, a failure to apply for grants could be seen negatively.

Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Orem, emphasized that legislators were not relinquishing their responsibility to manage the budget because organizations could still ask the Legislature for money.

Receiving the subcommittee’s support clears an important hurdle for the proposed funding increase. It also leaves the door open — at least for now — that the full $6 million could be funded in the final budget.