Power of Culture Blog
New legislation would create a $200M COVID-19 relief and stabilization fund using federal funds.
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This revised spending plan essentially resets the state’s budget drafting process for Fiscal Year 2021, which began on July 1. While state government operations have been sustained by a series of interim budgets since that time, a final state budget, or General Appropriations Act (GAA), has not been enacted by the House of Representatives and Senate. The House and Senate have delayed their budget debates, which usually take place in April and May, as legislative leaders repeatedly cited the need to fully understand how much federal COVID assistance would be received in Massachusetts, as well as a revised revenue estimate, before a responsible and balanced spending plan could be crafted.
The Governor’s Revised H2 funds arts and culture in Massachusetts, through Mass Cultural Council’s line item (account 0640-0300), at $16,298,039. This figure equals the line item appropriation the Governor proposed in his original H2 budget bill in January – prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mass Cultural Council is deeply appreciative of the Governor’s proposed $16.3M investment in arts and culture. We believe the fact that his FY21 funding recommendation for the Agency held steady at this figure, despite a global pandemic, the resulting economic crisis, and declining state revenues is extremely significant. And while this $16.3M recommendation reflects a 9.455% reduction from our $18.2M FY20 appropriation, we believe it speaks to the economic impact and importance of the cultural sector in Massachusetts. This budget recommendation is also directly linked to the advocacy campaign Mass Cultural Council and MASSCreative spearheaded this summer, calling for robust public investment in the sector to ensure COVID recovery.
While legislative leaders in the House and Senate have not yet announced their timeline or process to complete the FY21 budget, this afternoon Governor Baker publicly stated his expectation that he will receive a budget bill from the Legislature by Thanksgiving. His Revised H2 is essentially a new “first step” for the FY21 budget crafting process. Mass Cultural Council will continue to monitor the FY21 process and update the sector on any forthcoming House and Senate spending recommendations that invest in arts and culture, which could potentially differ from the Governor’s proposal and/or each other.
Typically, after the Governor files his budget recommendations, the House and Senate each hold budget debates and a final budget bill is crafted by a conference committee. These activities traditionally start in January, continue through the spring months, and are hopefully complete by July 1, the first day of a new fiscal year. As we are now four months into FY21, and the 2019-2020 legislative session ends at the end of the calendar year, it is assumed the Legislature’s work on the budget will be expeditious.
It is also anticipated that one more interim budget bill will be filed and enacted to keep state government operating during the month of November.