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Our Testimony on Governor Baker’s Revised FY21 H2 Budget

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

The following testimony was submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Ways & Means today regarding the Governor’s Revised H2 Budget for Fiscal Year 2021:

October 21, 2020

The Honorable Michael J. Rodrigues, Chair
Senate Committee on Ways & Means
Via Email:

The Honorable Aaron M. Michlewitz, Chair
House Committee on Ways & Means
Via Email:

Re: Revised FY21 H2 Testimony from Mass Cultural Council

Dear Chair Rodrigues and Chair Michlewitz:

Thank you for the opportunity to register Mass Cultural Council’s outlook on Governor Baker’s Revised FY21 H2 budget and encourage a robust public investment to support the cultural sector, through the Agency’s line item in the final FY21 state budget.

Mass Cultural Council is an independent state agency charged with promoting excellence, inclusion, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and sciences; fostering a rich cultural life for all Massachusetts residents; and contributing to the vitality of our communities and the state economy. The Council pursues this mission through a wide range of grants, service initiatives, and advocacy for artists, communities, organizations, and schools.

Mass Cultural Council is primarily funded with state funds, delivered through line item 0640-0300.  In FY20 the Agency’s state appropriation was $18,180,000.  In January, prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor proposed reducing our line item to $16,298,039.  Last week, in his Revised H2 FY21 budget, Governor Baker maintained this recommendation and again funded Mass Cultural Council at $16,298,039.

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 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 to our FY21 appropriation, we believe it speaks to the economic impact and importance of the cultural sector in Massachusetts.

Mass Cultural Council has surveyed the Commonwealth’s cultural sector three times since March to understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 on creative individuals and cultural nonprofit organizations statewide.  Our fourth COVID impact survey of the sector is now in progress.  In July Mass Cultural Council gravely reported to the Legislature the striking and dire results of our third COVID impact survey:  Massachusetts’ cultural nonprofits had lost $425M in revenue due to pandemic cancellations and closures, and one-in-four sector jobs – more than 17,000 employees – had been impacted by COVID.

We further reported at that time that cultural nonprofits self-identified a total of $117M in new recovery strategies deemed necessary to implement to safely reopen and reengage with the public.

Mass Cultural Council is preparing to provide critical support to the cultural sector as it implements these recovery strategies throughout FY21.  The Agency’s FY21 line item appropriation funds our nationally-recognized core professional services, which are delivered to individual artists and cultural nonprofits across the Commonwealth, as well as the Local Cultural Council (LCC) Program (the largest grassroots cultural funding network in the nation), and various grant programs that encourage and support excellence and creativity across all creative disciplines, which this year is more critical than ever.

We stand ready to work with you, our partners on Beacon Hill, as you finalize the FY21 state budget.  We recognize the tremendous challenges you face to prepare a responsible and balanced FY21 spending plan.  If the Governor’s $16.3M recommendation stands in the final budget, the Agency will put it to good use immediately and begin to launch grant programs that have been on hold since July.  However, if the Committee identifies a will amongst Members and sufficient revenues to increase the FY21 investment in arts and culture, level funding Mass Cultural Council’s line item at $18.2M, is, of course, our preference.

Thank you, Chair Rodrigues, and Chair Michlewitz, for your steadfast leadership and continued support of the #PowerOfCulture in Massachusetts.  Please do not hesitate to contact me, or our Director of Public Affairs, Bethann Steiner, if you require any information from Mass Cultural Council.


David T. Slatery
Acting Executive Director

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