The head of Iowa’s Department of Cultural Affairs says Iowa ranks 40th in the country for per capita spending on the arts. But at a statehouse budget hearing this month, Governor Branstad said that’s an improvement over the past several decades.

Branstad recalled the state being last in the country before his first term as governor. “We were 50th. That’s where we were in 1982. I remember that very well,” Branstad said. “In fact, we might have been below some of the territories. We were absolutely last, but we have moved up.”

State spending on the arts would remain static next year, according to a budget request from Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Director Mary Cowney. At the budget hearing, Cowney asked the governor and his advisors for $1.1 million for the Iowa Arts Council.

Cowney said that amounts to 37-cents per capita on the arts, putting Iowa at 40th in the nation. “Our goal should be to beat South Dakota. They’re at 17, spending 96 cents per person,” Cowney said. “Yes, but that’s per capita and they don’t have a lot of people in South Dakota,” Branstad responded.

Cownie also presented a proposal to renovate the State Historical Building, which was built 25 years ago in Des Moines. She said the upgrade would cost up to $101 million.