State Sen. Steve Farley, a Tucson Democrat, awoke in the middle of night last January and had an ah-ha moment:

A portion of the money from the state's "rainy day fund" - $450 million set aside at the beginning of the the 2012 fiscal year - should go to the arts.

"Funding for the arts has gone down in the last three years," said Farley. "Organizations and artists around the state were hurting."

When lawmakers approved the state budget in mid-June, $1 million was earmarked for the arts.

Getting his fellow lawmakers to approve arts funding required some nifty across-the-aisle partnership building. But the biggest argument for the funding came from the Arizona Cultural Data Project, which collects financial and organizational information on arts groups. It found that:

• The arts industry contributed more than $581 million to the state's economy last year.

• About 1.8 million youths participated in arts and culture activities statewide.

• The state's arts sector bucked the economic trend - between 2008 and 2012, there was a 22 percent increase in jobs in the arts, and a 68 percent increase in the number of arts-related businesses. That includes both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Add to that the fact that government support of the arts has dwindled in Arizona since 2008. State funding went down 70 percent between the 2008 and 2013 fiscal years, according to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the organization tapped to distribute funds from the state to arts groups.

"The arts are the most aggressive entrepreneurial part of our economy," said Farley. "If you hurt the arts, you hurt the economy."

Rep. Ethan Orr, a Tucson Republican, quickly added his support to Farley's growing coalition.

"I think funding the arts, especially in Tucson, is economic development," said Orr.

"Look at the financial impact of the arts in Tucson; it's more than double of the sports industry. Quality of life is an important investment."

According to a study released last month by VisitTucson, formerly the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau, sports have a $37 million economic impact in Pima County. A 2010 study by Americans for the Arts put the economic impact of the arts in Tucson at $87.7 million.

While the $1 million is a one-time deal, Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, hopes it's just the beginning of increased state support.

"I've been at this agency almost eight years," he said. "Starting in 2008, we saw legislative cuts every year, including the loss of a $20 million endowment. I'm still fighting to get back to those earlier times."

He's optimistic, he said.

"We are demonstrating that the arts have an economic impact on the state, our young people, and on the understanding of our people and our culture. I can tell you that every dollar that comes into this agency is spent on improving the lives of Arizonans. I am hopeful our Legislature will (continue to) step forward."