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Vitale Statement In Response To Kean Criticism On Arts Funding Cuts

TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, and a member of Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, issued the following statement today in response to criticism from former Governor Tom Kean on Governor Corzine’s proposed cut to arts funding below statutorily-mandated levels:

“The arts are absolutely important. Cultural identity is one of the key measures of a society, and there is no doubt that arts funding is not only a boon to the economy, but also helps encourage students – particularly in struggling urban areas – to achieve their maximum potential.

“However, during this global economic crisis, we have to recognize that New Jersey cannot afford to fund every worthy cause, and must prioritize its funding. Governor Corzine has proposed funding arts at a level that’s roughly $3 million less than last year, while still managing to provide $25 million in funding for projects in the proposed budget. Meanwhile, we’re struggling to fund every state priority, from health care to public safety to education.

“The ability to appreciate the arts is going to come as little consolation to a child who doesn’t receive adequate health coverage, doesn’t have a safe place to grow up, or doesn’t get a proper education. Funding for our State’s priorities must be bottom-up, and we must fulfill our promise to keep kids safe and healthy before we can restore arts funding.

“Governor Kean’s disappointment in the cut to arts funding is understandable, but ultimately, it’s a symptom of the stark fiscal times, not Governor Corzine’s performance. If anything, the current Governor has done his best to preserve our priorities, and help alleviate the pain of cuts in other places of the budget. While it might be easier to criticize from the sidelines, it’s much harder to govern when facing the economic realities that this Governor has had to face.

“I think Governor Kean’s threat of a lawsuit to restore the full level of arts funding is short-sighted. At this time, we have bigger battles to fight, and bigger priorities to fund. Governor Kean’s efforts would be better spent lending his clout to raising funds through private sources than forcing public spending on something we cannot afford in the current economic climate.”