A revived effort by a conservative Republican to zero out the state Commission on the Arts and direct the funding to the Department of State Health Services drew rare bipartisan opposition this morning.
The amendment by state Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, was tabled on a vote of 87-39 after members of his own party joined Democrats in raillying against the measure. A similar amendment had passed the House in the regular session but was later removed.
The commission, which funds arts programs throughout the state, has already been reduced from $12 million to $2 million in the budget. Lawmakers said the amendment would remove the opportunity to get $2 million in federal matching funds.
Democrats said they would not be forced to cut one program to supplement another. They suggested tapping the state's $6.5 billion Rainy Day Fund. That move was rejected by the Republican-dominated House.
State Rep. Dee Margo, R-El Paso, whose wife Adair Margo has in the past served as chairwoman of the commission, spoke against zeroing out its budget. He said the reduction to $2 million was low enough.
"We picked that number because it kept them on life support and it allowed federal matching dollars to sustain and we said it'll give you a chance come back another day," Margo said.
State Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, agreed.
"To take this comission down to zero is ludicrous right now," he said. "We shouldn't be doing it."