- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 31, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A House committee took no action Tuesday on a bill that would end a program guaranteeing state spending on public art.

House State Affairs heard public testimony opposing the bill from Rep. Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla. It would eliminate the requirement to spend 1 percent of the total cost of a building on public art to go inside that facility.

Gattis proposed the bill in response to the state’s budget deficit, but some committee members said they were concerned about hurting local artists and economies.

Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, said he appreciated the effort to save the state money, but he had seen local artists benefit from the fund.

Through that program, which was instituted in 1975, art is included at new schools and other buildings. In certain situations, the money is instead deposited into a fund managed by Alaska’s Council on the Arts.

The bill halts new funding but would allow the council five years to spend what’s been collected and become self-sufficient.

The council currently has an annual spending cap of $30,000 and a fund balance of about $116,733.40, although some of that money is already committed to projects, according to a memo from Shannon Daut, the council’s executive director.

In her sponsor statement, Gattis wrote that the transportation and education department, along with the court system, spent a combined $9.1 million as a result of the art program from 2004 to 2013.

Those testifying in opposition to the bill said the money would simply be spent on other components of the projects, but some committee members said they thought it would save on overall project costs.

Gattis did not have information on possible savings from halting the program, noting that it would depend on how much money the state was spending on the projects.

Committee member Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said that in addition to supporting local artists, the public art funded by the program helps differentiate schools and buildings in Alaska from those in other states, and contributes to a sense of place.

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