Arts supporters will seek equity in cuts from stateSean Dowse is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the financial impact of Minnesota's budget woes on the Sheldon Theatre. He's realistic.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Sean Dowse is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the financial impact of Minnesota's budget woes on the Sheldon Theatre.
"I know we have a lot of work ahead of us," said the Sheldon's executive director. "Anything could happen."
Gov. Pawlenty has asked all state agencies to cut 10 percent from their budgets, he said. The State Arts Board likely has the same directive.
"In 2001," during the last budget crisis, Dowse said, "the arts took a disproportionate cut" under Pawlenty's leadership. The State Arts Board, which has a $10 million budget, lost $5 million that year.
When the Legislature convenes in January, arts supporters have two primary tasks. The first relates to the constitutional amendment passed by voters in November, which increases the sales tax by three-eighths of one percent. Most of that money will go to clean water and land; less than one-fifth of it will go to arts and culture.
They want to convince legislators to designate 50 percent of that portion for the State Arts Board, which distributes it statewide; the other 50 percent would go to history and culture. The board's resources could increase to as much as $30 million.
Money from that tax increase will not be seen for several months. The state will begin collecting it in July, and it's possible the state will not distribute the money until a certain amount has accumulated.
Meanwhile, Dowse said, supporters need to defend the existing State Arts Board appropriation. "We … should say the State Arts Board should suffer cuts proportionate to all the other state agencies," rather than take a major hit like in 2001. Among programs cut was one that had brought the Guthrie Theater to Red Wing.
"I don't relish the legislators' job this year," he said.
As for the Sheldon's budget picture in 2008, Dowse said, "It's going to be close. Ticket sales have been healthy this fall for some shows. Our job at this time of year is to give people a respite, entertainment. … That kind of show will find an audience. December should be a fun month for people."