Baker shows his true colors, allows arts appropriation to get slashed in half
Opinion by Larry Murray
Massachusetts has long had both Republican and Democratic governors, and much of it has been a credit to the open-mindedness of the Commonwealth’s voters.
I have admired elected officials from both parties. Over the years I have worked with Governor Ed King, John Volpe and William Weld, good solid Republicans who saw the wisdom of keeping the arts on a solid footing in Massachusetts with small, but well directed state funding.
And it has given our state the strong business and tourism economies it currently enjoys.
That is up until the moment Governor Charlie Baker issued a budget veto that slashed funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences through the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) by more than half. The cut would exceed the value of MCC’s two largest grant programs, reducing state cultural funding to levels not seen since 1994.
On July 1, the Legislature approved a state budget for FY17 that included $14 million in funding for the arts, humanities, and sciences via MCC. The veto would reduce that by $7.7 million, to $6.5 million. That funding level would put Massachusetts in league with states such as Nebraska and South Dakota in per capita support for arts and culture. The proposed cut of $7.7 million was included in a larger set of $256 million in vetoes.
“If it stands, this budget would cut many of our core grant programs to the bone,” said MCC Executive Director Anita Walker, “and likely force us to eliminate some programs entirely. It would cost jobs in our nonprofits, choke off revenue from cultural tourism, and close arts education opportunities for thousands of kids in schools and youth programs across the state.”
MCC’s two largest grant programs are its Cultural Investment Portfolio, providing core operating support for 384 nonprofits, at $4.6 million in the last fiscal year; and $3 million for 329 Local Cultural Councils, which support more than 6,000 public programs statewide.
MCC will work with MASSCreative, Mass Humanities, the Mass Artists Leaders Coalition, and advocates statewide to encourage members of the House and Senate to override the veto when they consider responses to the Governor’s actions this week. Stay tuned for updates as the process unfolds.