House passes legislation capping program on art projects in state buildings

House passes legislation capping program on art projects in state buildings

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you're on mobile, click HERE for a slideshow of art projects in state buildings, along with their cost to the taxpayer.

A move to cap the Percent for Art program has made its way through the House of Representatives and now heads to the Senate for approval.

The program requires state agencies that use state funds to build a building costing more than $2 million dollars to spend 1% of those funds on art for the building.

With amendments, the bill would cap the spending at $450,000 per project.

Since its inception, state figures show various agencies have spent $3,460,947 on art to be displayed in state buildings.

State Treasurer John Kennedy became a critic of the once obscure program after looking through state contracts.

"We just can't afford that kind of stuff right now," he said. "At least according to the governor, now if we can, then the governor's not being truthful with the people of Louisiana. I mean where are our priorities?"

Kennedy criticizes using millions of tax dollars to buy art while the state faces financial hardships and points to the recently erected hospital in New Orleans which has among other pieces, two sculptures prices at a little more than a million dollars.

"Do you know how many TOPS scholarships that $1.1 million would pay for? Do you know how many elderly people through the Council on Aging could feed in one year? State government just does a lousy job of prioritizing it's money."

Proponents of the program include Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser. He says it's a good idea to invest in the art community and criticizes Kennedy for pointing out costs.

"To drive around the state and pick on these arts programs or works of art is not the right thing to do," Nungesser said.

"I would be angry if I didn't know the history of the project, the legislation, why it was put in place and the benefit that it's created all across Louisiana."

Gov. John Bel Edwards says he supports effort to cap the spending on the program.

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