Thursday, April 14, 2011

House Ways & Means Budget Proposes Another Significant Cut to Arts & Cultural Funding

From the Mass Cultural Council Web site yesterday -- budget cuts would mean an 18% cut to MCC funding.

(Boston, MA) - The House Ways & Means Committee today released a proposed state budget for the coming fiscal year that would significantly cut support for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC).

The House panel recommends $7.5 million for MCC for fiscal year 2012. That would cut $1.65 million, or 18 percent, from the agency's current budget. If enacted, this budget would represent a cumulative cut of 41 percent to MCC's budget since 2009.

The Governor's proposed budget had cut cultural funding by $700,000; the House Ways & Means version represents a cut of nearly $1 million on top of that.

Another cut to MCC's state appropriation for the coming fiscal year would be compounded by a reduction of at least $100,000 to the agency's budget from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) annual state partnership grant. That cut is expected from this week's federal budget agreement, which reduced the budgets of the NEA and National Endowment for the Humanities by $12.5 million each.

"The state continues to face a large gap between revenues and demands on spending," said Anita Walker, MCC's Executive Director. "But we know that arts and culture pay dividends for the Commonwealth through more vibrant communities, better schools, and revenue from cultural tourism. We cannot stop supporting this work despite our challenges."

Walker said passage of the budget proposed today would mean MCC would have to significantly cut grants across its programs, and possibly eliminate some grant programs altogether. She said the agency would work with its supporters in the House to seek amendments to restore funding.

The release of the House Ways & Means budget is a key step in the annual state budget process. The full House will vote on the proposal during the week of April 25. The Senate will release its own budget recommendations in May. The two chambers must then agree on a final spending plan before sending it back to the Governor for final approval. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

"Since the fiscal crisis began in 2009 we have done our best to minimize the impact of budget cuts to our nonprofit cultural organizations, local cultural councils, schools, and artists," she said. "We've cut staff, streamlined programs, and increased efficiencies. But our options are growing limited. Cuts of this magnitude will be painful for a cultural sector still recovering from a severe economic recession."
MCC urges arts and cultural leaders to contact their state representatives to convey the value of their work and the importance of state funding to their success. Information on how to support amendments will be forthcoming. Detailed contact information on House members can be found online.

About the Massachusetts Cultural Council
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a state agency that promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences, in order to improve the quality of life for all Massachusetts residents and contribute to the economic vitality of our communities. The MCC is committed to building a central place for arts and culture in the everyday lives of communities across the Commonwealth. The Council pursues this mission through a combination of grants, services, and advocacy for cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists.