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Iowa’s Cultural Trust Fund to Benefit the Arts Raided by Budget Cutters

John Pemble/IPR
Des Moines Symphony Orchestra

Dozens of artists and representatives of arts organizations from around the state crowded a committee room at the statehouse today, urging lawmakers not to empty out a trust fund that benefits the arts in communities around the state.   

The Iowa Cultural Trust fund is on the chopping block as state lawmakers strive to cover a shortfall in the state budget for the fiscal year that ends in June. 

A tentative budget agreement would take the entire $6 million in the fund, and use it to offset cuts to a range of state agencies.

The fund was established in 2002.   Lawmakers over time have appropriated money for the fund, with interest used for matching grants to artists and arts organizations.    

Dozens of artists and representatives of arts organizations crowded a committee room to urge a budget panel to preserve the fund. .  

Quad Cities Symphony Executive Director Ben Loeb says his organization received a $25,000 challenge grant before the symphony’s 100th season.

Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
Quad CitiesSymphony Ex. Dir. Ben Loeb

“We leveraged that into $100,000 in gifts that went into our trust which we then leveraged into $3 million that went into our trust.   “Our organization realized we needed to put money away to allow to provide these critical arts for our community.”    

Loeb says the money is not used for ongoing expenses.

“This was going to the future so we could continue to provide critical arts to our community, to our children,” Loeb said, “and to outside communities,  Eldridge, Clinton, Muscatine.”  

Governor Branstad recommended scooping up the $6 million balance in the fund and GOP lawmakers have tentatively agreed.

A spokesman for the governor said the cuts are needed to give Iowa taxpayers the balanced budget they deserve.

“Gov. Branstad has been saying for months that this budget is very tough due to the downturn in our agricultural economy,” said spokesman Ben Hammes in a statement.