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Obama’s Proposed Budget Fulfills Pledge to Boost Arts Funding

With the release this week of his proposed 2014 fiscal year budget, President Obama has followed through on his campaign promise to increase funding for the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and, in general, to support the arts.

The budget allocates $154.5 million to both the NEA and the NEH, which is a considerable jump up from the current funding that both agencies receive: roughly $139 million for each, after the sequester took effect last month and reduced their planned budgets by 5 percent.

The NEA plans to use $74.8 million for direct endowment grants to arts organizations —  including $10 million for its sometimes-criticized “Our Town” program, which is billed as “creative placemaking” — and $49.9 million for state/regional partnership grants.

The NEH, meanwhile, wants to allocate $106.8 million for grant programs and $9 million for its “Bridging Cultures” program, whose goal is to promote cultural diversity across the country.

Obama’s proposed budget also includes $869 million for the Smithsonian Institution — a hefty $59 million more than the organization received in 2012 and was due to receive in 2013, until the sequester chopped $41 million. Of the fiscal year 2014 request, $55 million would go toward the construction of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

PBS watchers and Big Bird enthusiasts will be happy to hear that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting also made it into the budget unscathed, receiving $445 million from the president, the same amount as last year. And Obama has requested $225.8 million for the Institute of Museum of Library Services, an increase 2.7 percent from the 2013 post-sequester amount, according to CultureGrrl.

CultureGrrl also points out that Obama is hoping to move forward with his plan to reduce the value of the deduction that taxpayers who earn over $250,000 may take on charitable donations, from the current 39.6 percent to 28 percent. She offers an example of what this means:

“Under current law, if you donate $100 and are in the top tax bracket, your deduction of $100 from your taxable income could be worth a maximum of $39.60 in saved taxes. Under President Obama’s 28 percent limit, the value of the $100 deduction would be reduced from $39.60 to $28 or a decrease of almost 30 percent in the size of the benefit to you.”

The Chronicle of Higher Education points out that Obama has been trying to do this since 2009 to no avail, largely because of resistance from many nonprofits and charities.

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