Power of Culture Blog
The following testimony was submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Ways & Means today.
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As a state agency, Mass Cultural Council operations are primarily funded with state dollars, allocated on a yearly basis by our partners in the Legislature in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) – widely referred to as the annual state budget. For reference, in the current fiscal year (FY20), Mass Cultural Council is managing a $20M spending plan, with $18.2M coming from a strong state investment in arts and culture.
Typically, at this time in the legislative/budget calendar both the House of Representatives and State Senate would have completed their budget deliberations, and a conference committee would be finalizing the FY21 budget bill. However, these are far from typical times. COVID-19 social distancing measures, cancellations, and closures have wreaked havoc on the Commonwealth’s economy. The consensus revenue projections the Administration and Legislature adopted early in the budget building process are now moot. The Governor’s FY21 budget bill, H.2, built upon that figure can no longer be used as a starting point. Economists and fiscal experts are suggesting budget writers will need to contend with a massive budget deficit, upwards of $5 to $8 billion.
The House Ways & Means Committee’s FY21 budget bill, normally released in April, is now due on July 1, 2020 – the first day of Fiscal Year 2021. A full timeline for the FY21 budget debate is not yet available and it is unclear what processes the House and Senate will use to convene in formal sessions to safely have this important debate.
One impact of a late FY21 state budget is that Mass Cultural Council’s spending plan for the coming fiscal year will also be delayed. Grant application processes that normally open in the late spring and summer will be paused until we are able to develop a responsible FY21 spending plan, which is dependent upon our state budget appropriation.
In the immediate future Agency staff will keep their focus on the remote delivery of technical assistance, guidance, and expertise to their stakeholders focused on helping the Commonwealth’s cultural sector recover, rebuild, and renew engagements with the public. New grant rounds will be paused until the Agency’s FY21 spending plan is approved by our governing Council. Updates will be shared on our website, social media channels, and enewsletters as they become available, and you can email your Mass Cultural Council contact with specific questions at any time.
State legislators often look to their constituents as they develop budget and policy priorities. This year, when the House and Senate begin to build the FY21 budget, it will be more important than ever for creative individuals and cultural non-profits to engage with their elected representatives and advocate for a robust state investment into arts and culture via Mass Cultural Council’s line item. We are committed to working with our advocacy partners, including MASSCreative and Mass Humanities, and our legislative champions on Beacon Hill to secure enough state funding to sustain the core government services Mass Cultural Council provides to the cultural sector statewide. We hope you will join us in this effort.