This Governor tried to cut down the arts budget by 55 percent, but the legislators wouldn't have it.
August 1, 2016
BOSTON - Facing a midnight deadline, House and Senate lawmakers restored funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, reversing Gov. Charlie Baker's state budget veto.
The fiscal year 2017 budget lawmakers sent to the governor's desk in July included $14 million for arts, humanities and sciences programs through the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
But Baker vetoed $7.7 million, bringing the total figure down to $6.5 million, a 55 percent cut the agency called "devastating."
"This funding allows the Massachusetts Cultural Council to continue their crucial programming, including the Community Music School of Springfield, support for Springfield's new cultural district, and arts and music programming for thousands of school-aged kids," state Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, said in a statement after lawmakers overrode Baker's veto. "Cultural development is economic development. I'm grateful to the 21 senators and 106 representatives that signed our letter of support for this override."
Baker issued that veto and others as his administration grappled with declining tax revenues and a yawning budget gap. His administration has also moved to institute a hiring freeze.
"We wouldn't have done what we did if we thought the budget was balanced," Baker said earlier this month.
"Just about this time last year, the Legislature and the administration thought we knew what tax revenues were going to be for the fiscal year that just ended, and we missed by almost $500 million," he added.
But lawmakers appear undeterred by Baker's concerns. They spent this weekend and the previous Saturday overriding his budget vetoes and restoring funding to accounts attached to the $39 billion state budget. Veto overrides require support from two-thirds of each chamber.
"Funding decisions must be prudent, and the Commonwealth should be investing in proven programs that make a demonstrable impact," said Matt Wilson, executive director of MASSCreative, a group made up of arts and culture organizations.
"The Massachusetts Cultural Council is a model for how public funds can be invested for an outsize impact," he continued in a statement.
"By funding approximately 6000 projects through the local cultural council network, the MCC financially supports arts and cultural groups in every municipality. It also makes direct grants to approximately 400 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that, in turn, use these public funds to leverage private dollars."
They face a midnight deadline thanks to their own rules, which call for formal sessions to end on July 31. Lawmakers are jamming through bills big and small before adjourning formal sessions for the rest of the year. Informal sessions, which will continue to occur, see few lawmakers attend, and the agendas largely include noncontroversial matters.
Lawmakers who support the Massachusetts Cultural Council wrote a letter earlier this month to House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, and Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, D-Amherst, pressing for a veto override.
"From Boston to the Berkshires, from Cape Ann to Cape Cod, our state boasts an array of exceptional cultural organizations, beautiful and distinctive communities, and thousands of talented artists and educators," they wrote in their plea.
"The MCC nurtures the creative life of Massachusetts. It is imperative that we continue to provide the Massachusetts Cultural Council with the necessary resources to continue the great work it does in the Commonwealth," they added.
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