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Home / Blog / Advocacy / Governor’s Budget Cuts Funding for the Arts, Humanities & Sciences

Governor’s Budget Cuts Funding for the Arts, Humanities & Sciences

Bethann Steiner, Communications Director

Today the Commonwealth’s annual operating budget season opened for Fiscal Year 2021 at the State House with the release of Governor Charlie Baker’s spending recommendations.

The Governor’s budget for the coming fiscal year proposes an investment of $16.3M for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Mass Cultural Council. The Agency is disappointed that the Governor’s budget represents a 9.455% funding reduction from the current fiscal year and cautions that this $1.7M funding reduction will lead to broad cuts in agency services and programs in the coming fiscal year.

We note that the Governor’s proposal is in line with his previous spending plans. In FY20 Governor Baker recommended an investment of $16.1M in the arts, humanities, and sciences; however, due to the passionate advocacy and support from our partners MASSCreative, Mass Humanities, Mass Artists Leaders Coalition, and thousands of advocates statewide, the final FY20 state budget enacted by the Legislature actually funded Mass Cultural Council at $18,180,000, a high water mark for the Agency’s operating budget in recent times.

Mass Cultural Council is currently working with our advocacy partners and legislative champions to develop and finalize a viable funding request for FY21. At minimum, we will launch an education and advocacy campaign to ensure Mass Cultural Council’s current level of funding is restored by the House and Senate. We view the Governor’s recommendation as a starting point for this conversation yet acknowledge that the Agency can demonstrate serious unmet need across all Mass Cultural Council programs and services. Funding Mass Cultural Council at the Governor’s number, $16.3 million, will mean fewer successful grant applications and/or smaller funding awards for arts and cultural organizations in FY21. It will also result in less frequent visits by Mass Cultural Council staff to local cultural council officials and cultural nonprofits in every community, and fewer opportunities to provide technical assistance and professional services to those serving the sector from Pittsfield to Provincetown. The Governor’s spending plan will necessitate drastic cuts across the board for all Mass Cultural Council programs, services, and operations in the coming fiscal year.

Consider this, in FY19 the Mass Cultural Council was funded at $16,154,982, which is $143,057 less than Governor Baker’s current FY21 recommendation. At that level of funding Mass Cultural Council:

  • Was able to fund less than half of Cultural Investment Portfolio Projects grant applications received.
  • Could successfully approve only 38% of the applicants to the Cultural Investment Portfolio Gateway grant program.
  • And, most dramatically: funding for STARS Residencies, which bring students and teachers together with practicing artists, scientists, and/or scholars to create rich cultural experiences, was gone within 34 minutes of the application going live.

Clearly, the need for robust state investment in the arts, humanities, and sciences exists. Massachusetts’ vibrant cultural sector will suffer if Mass Cultural Council’s funding is cut as suggested by the Governor’s recommendation for FY21. 

We are eager to engage with our legislative partners in the House of Representatives and State Senate as the budget crafting process continues. Mass Cultural Council fervently believes in the power of culture and will passionately share with legislators in the coming months why continued robust state investment in the arts, humanities, and sciences is critical: in all its forms, culture is essential to the health and vitality of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Next Steps

  • Use MASSCreative‘s Action Alert to email your legislators letting them know how important funding for arts and culture is and urge them not to cut the Mass Cultural Council budget.
  • We anticipate Mass Cultural Council will soon be invited to testify at a Joint Hearing of the House and Senate Committees on Ways & Means to provide feedback on the Governor’s FY21 spending recommendation.
  • The House Committee on Ways & Means traditionally releases its budget recommendations in early April; the House of Representatives FY21 budget debate will likely take place during the week of April 27.
  • The Senate Committee on Ways & Means traditionally releases its budget recommendations in early May; the Senate FY21 budget debate will likely take place during the week of May 18.
  • Fiscal Year 2021 begins on July 1, 2020.

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