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$31M Authorized in Economic Development Bond

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

New Capital Spending to Revitalize Cultural Sector

Update:  Mass Cultural Council notes with sincere appreciation that the items described below were signed into law by Governor Baker on January 14, 2020. We look forward to continued conversations with the Baker-Polito Administration to determine how to best access and deploy these new COVID recovery tools in the coming months. 

January 6, 2021 is the first day of a new legislative session on Beacon Hill: the 192nd Session of the Great and General Court. This means that 159 state Representatives (1 seat is vacant) and 40 state Senators will take their oaths of office, elect their Speaker and Senate President, and welcome the 19 newly-elected legislators to their ranks. It is traditionally a day filled with ceremony and celebration, although due to social distancing restrictions it will be carried out on a smaller scale today.

But before the new session can begin, the 2019-2021 session had to end. Our partners on Beacon Hill worked until dawn to finish major priorities, like a $626M economic development bond bill, a $16.5B transportation bond bill, and scores of other local legislative matters – all of them are now on the Governor’s desk.

An Act Enabling Partnerships for Growth – H. 5250

Of greatest importance to Mass Cultural Council is H. 5250, the Economic Development Bond Bill, entitled An Act enabling partnerships for growth.  This sweeping package is expected to be a major tool to help rebuild the Commonwealth’s economy post-COVID.

Mass Cultural Council is deeply appreciative of the commitment to the cultural sector again showcased by the House and Senate, as every item previously endorsed by either the House of Representatives and the Senate in their bond bills this summer was retained by the Conference Committee and sent to the Governor’s desk this morning.

The 2020 Economic Development Bond Bill provides a stunning $31 million in new capital spending authorizations support and invest in the cultural sector through Mass Cultural Council:

  • $6 million for a new competitive grant program to promote artists and cultural organizations and enhance ways increase remote access and promote remote programming in response to COVID-19 (see account 0640-0303 in H. 5250)
  • $5 million for a new competitive grant program to assist public school districts provide student access to cultural experiences in the community (see account 0640-0304 in H. 5250)
  • $20 million for a new competitive nonprofit infrastructure and equipment grant program to help nonprofit arts, cultural organizations, and tourism institutions with COVID-related capital projects necessary to safely and sustainable reopen to the public.

Additionally, the Economic Development Bond establishes a special commission to study the impact of COVID-19 on the creative and cultural sector and make recommendations for recovery (see Outside Section 99 of H. 5250). Mass Cultural Council has a seat on this commission.

What Comes Next?

Governor Baker has 10 days to review and act on all the legislation enacted at the end of the session that is now on his desk. Because the 2019-2020 session is over, there is no opportunity for the Legislature to attempt to override any gubernatorial vetoes.

Call to Action

Mass Cultural Council urges Governor Baker to retain the $31 million in new capital spending authorizations for the cultural sector in this legislation, as well as the special commission, by signing them into law. We will work with our advocacy partners, including MASSCreative and Mass Humanities to amplify this request. (Read the testimony Mass Cultural Council submitted to Governor Baker outlining the Agency’s priorities in this bill.)

Please consider emailing or connecting on social media with Governor Baker to urge him to retain these items in the 2020 Economic Development Bond Bill. Explain to him why arts and culture are important to you, and why public investment is necessary to help rebuild and restore the economic vibrancy of the sector.

Contact the Governor using MASSCreative’s action alert on H. 5250.

Remember…This is NOT a Budget Bill

We are mindful that many Mass Cultural Council stakeholders will be eager to learn when this funding will be available and when applications will open. Please review this explanation outlining the differences between a bond bill and a budget bill.

If any of the $31 million in new capital spending authorizations is signed into law, we will need to begin a conversation with the Administration about releasing these funds, which happens in the annual capital spending plan. The annual capital budget (or capital spending plan) is traditionally released by the Administration each spring. Securing these funds will require sustained advocacy by the cultural sector over the coming weeks and months, and Mass Cultural Council is committed to working with our partners to achieve this goal.

We are mindful that this proposed investment into the cultural sector by the Legislature comes at a critical time, and are thankful for every partner:  artists, cultural practitioners, community leaders, and cultural nonprofit organizations who have participated in our COVID-19 economic impact surveys and helped shape our call for public investment in the power of culture.

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