NEH Chairman Cole Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee on FY ’08 Budget

On March 20, 2007, Chairman Bruce Cole testified on the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) before the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

In his prepared testimony, Dr. Cole said that under the President’s FY 2008 request, NEH would receive $141.4 million, a slight increase over the amount it received in FY 2007. The NEH’s flagship “We the People” program would be flat funded at $15.2 million. Dr. Cole noted the detrimental impact increased costs for overhead and travel were having on NEH’s budget.

Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA) began the question-and-answer period by asking what NEH could accomplish if it were to receive an increase in base funding. Dr. Cole stated that the current FY ’08 budget was lean, but it did allow NEH to fund, “the best of the best.” He went on to say that he preferred that the NEH allocate its limited resources to core programs, and to do those programs well. Dr. Cole added that increased funding would allow additional activities under the “We the People” program, the Digital Humanities Initiative, and by State Humanities Councils.

Ranking Minority Member Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) asked whether NEH coordinated with the Library of Congress on its digitization efforts. Dr. Cole highlighted the unveiling this week of the “Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers” web site, an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers. (See related story below)

Representative James Moran (D-VA) began his round of questioning by noting that 13 years ago, before the Republican Party took control of the House, the NEH’s budget was actually more than it is today. Moran said that if the NEH’s funding had kept up with inflation over that time, its budget would be $265 million, not the current $141 million. Moran sharply criticized the Republicans for spreading “disinformation and prejudice against the humanities” during their tenure and said the cuts NEH had endured over that time “were an embarrassment to our nation.” Moran complimented Chairman Cole by saying that he did not know how NEH accomplished as much as it did with the limited funds available to it.

When asked by Representative Moran what he would do with $265 million, Dr. Cole, without specifically supporting an increase, deftly responded that all NEH programs could be scaled up if “in its wisdom” Congress were to provide additional funding. Chairman Dicks quipped that the Office of Management and Budget would be happy with Cole’s response.