Spending report targets State Council on the Arts

Arts and culture. It's an addition to any society.

"What's more important? Spending for worthy industries like the arts or creating jobs and boosting our economy?" Mike Stenhouse, of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, said Friday on a taping of "10 News Conference."

Stenhouse's group put out a "Spotlight on Spending" report saying the state spends more than $220 million that it shouldn't, including nearly $3 million for the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts.

The council sponsors art shows in the state administration building and numerous other art and film programs, but nobody from the council would speak to NBC 10 about the criticism.

Instead, it sent a statement.

"The taxpayers of Rhode Island agree they get more than their money's worth from this investment," it said.

The arts council objected to some of the projects the cost-cutting report criticized, saying the council didn't fund the specific films or art endeavors. But it did admit to funding the organizations.

"If you give general funding, you are funding the projects. They're saying we didn't give specific money for that project. But we paid for it one way or another," said Justin Katz, of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

The report also calls for shutting down the Rhode Island Commerce Corp. and selling the Rhode Island Convention Center.

"Other smaller and larger items in that report are important to a few people, to a few legislators, to a few groups of people. But what they're not, is important to all Rhode Islanders," Stenhouse said. "In these times when we have one of the worst economies, the worst unemployment rate, we really have to prioritize our spending.

The arts piece is a small part of the report's suggested cuts. The center also wants the state to create three new offices: an inspector general to catch waste, a "repealer" to recommend getting rid of unneeded regulations, and a council of business people to advise government on efficiency.