The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) is once again fighting a familiar budget battle. For the sake of Berkshire cultural institutions, it needs to win it.
The House voted last week to cut the MCC's budget from the current $14 million to $12 million for fiscal 2017. The original budget proposed by the Ways and Means Committee reduced the MCC budget to $10 million, and while the efforts of Berkshire legislators and Representative Cory Atkins, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, fended off that severe cut, a $2 million reduction would resonate deeply.
The MCC, which had been recovering from severe cuts triggered by the recession, will take a major step backward if this budget cut is maintained. The MCC has long provided funding for a variety of Berkshire organizations. For example, the newly renovated Stockbridge Library, which is opening today (see Carole Owens' column on the opposite page), received a $600,000 grant from the MCC. That money contributed significantly to the successful completion of a $4 million project that is important to Stockbridge and to the Berkshires. A total of 33 Berkshire nonprofits in the arts, sciences and humanities received funding from the MCC in 2015.
The money that funds the MCC constitutes an investment in the state, as it pays tangible dividends that can be seen in places like the Berkshires that are so dependent on cultural tourism. The state Senate will establish its budget in May, and we hope the end result is that the Massachusetts Cultural Council will at least be level-funded when the Legislature sends its 2017 budget to Governor Baker.