The Annual State Budget - What to Look for and When


Last month Governor Baker submitted his budget recommendations to the legislature and officially kicked off the annual budget debate in Massachusetts.

A quick look at the Governor’s budget reveals the vast difference in spending between departments and agencies. Of the nearly $50 billion budget, more than half is spent on Health and Human Services (55%) while less than 1% (.03% to be exact) is allocated for the Mass Cultural Council.  

While the Mass Cultural Council budget is comparatively small, maintaining--and even increasing--that amount requires constant and broad grassroots activism from now until the end of summer when the budget is passed. It can feel redundant having to make the same ask year after year, yet the budget process is an opportunity for us to tell our stories on the importance of arts and creativity in our communities.  Annually, lawmakers, advocates, and constituents need to consider the direction and priorities of the Commonwealth and where public support is needed most.

Many sectors and groups are deserving of public investment; however, with limited funds lawmakers have to make tough financial choices. They look to their constituents to help them consider what programs and agencies will have the most impact in their district. This is why regular personal communication with your Senator and Representative is crucial to increasing public investment in the creative community. Here are a few key things to look out for over the next few months:

February and March - Budget and public hearings

Following the release of the Governor’s budget in January, the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means begin to put together their respective budgets that reflect the priorities and vision of each chamber.  

Public Hearings allow the Ways and Means committees the opportunity to hear from the public about what agencies and programs are most important to them. They also hear from fellow lawmakers on what they most want to see included in the budget. With over 200 members representing every corner of the Commonwealth, distilling these various priorities takes a long time. Many advocacy groups, advocates, and organizations plan days at the State House to make sure their issues are being considered in the budget.

Join Creativity Connects Arts Advocacy Day to share with your legislators why the creative sector matters.

Mid April - The House Budget

Once the House Ways and Means Committee reports on the budget bill favorably, it is sent to the full House during the week of April 8th. This is a particularly important moment--and one where MASSCreative especially needs your help.  Members of the House can offer amendments to the budget which include specific increases for state agencies and programs. (The arts and creative community is fortunate to have Representatives who usually offer an amendment for an increase in the Mass Cultural Council budget.) Once a Representative offers an amendment, members of the House can sign on as co-sponsors to show their support for a specific spending area or priority. The more co-sponsors it gets, the more support that particular spending priority has. For the last six years, MASSCreative has worked with partner arts advocates and member organizations to reach out and ask members of the House to sign on a co-sponsor of amendments to increase the Mass Cultural Council budget. The more calls, emails, and meetings a representative receives regarding an amendment the high the chances are they will sign on as a co-sponsor. This is a great time to reach out and remind your Representative that arts and creativity matter to you.

A final version of the House budget, that includes many of the filed amendments is voted on and sent to the Senate--where the process begins again.

Mid May - The Senate Budget

Like the House, the Senate Ways and Mean Committee has the opportunity to develop their own budget. And like the House, the Senate debates amendments to the budget offered by Senators. Senators also seek co-sponsors to support their amendments. This is followed by a final vote on the budget.

Key components of work at the State House are caucuses which are open to both House and Senate members. The legislative caucuses are organized by a particular political party affiliation or area of social policy and help to build support for an issue or sector. These caucuses play a valuable role during the budget process by helping organize and increase support for a particular budget amendment. The newly reformed Cultural Caucus, co-chaired by Representative Mary Keefe and Senator Julian Cyr, will work with arts advocates and MASSCreative to build support for the Mass Cultural Council budget inside the State House. 

June - Reconciling the budget(s)

Following the passage of the Senate budget, a committee known as the Conference Committee is convened to create a single budget reflective of the House and Senate versions. The Conference Committee includes members of the both the House and the Senate. Once the Committee has reconciled the two versions of the budget they release a Committee Report that is presented to the House and Senate for a vote.

June (continued) - Vetoes and Overrides

Following the House and Senate passage of the budget the Governor has 10 days to review the new version. The Governor can then sign the budget into law, veto the budget, or make line item vetos. The line item veto means the Governor can specifically reduce the amount of a particular budget item. Last year, after successfully getting an increase to the Mass Cultural Council budget from the House and Senate, Governor Baker line item vetoed the increase and returned the budget amount to level funding.

However, the budget isn’t finished yet! The House and the Senate can chose to override any or all of the Governor's vetoes. Any veto override requires 2/3 of both the House and the Senate. This is another moment where lawmaker need to hear from you about the value of arts, culture and creativity. Once all the overrides are voted on the budget is final!

July - Thanking our champions

The fiscal year officially begins July 1st.  After many months of work advocating for the budget, lawmakers turn their attention to other legislation, but their efforts on behalf of the creative community should not go unacknowledged.  Regardless of the final budget amount for the Mass Cultural Council, July is a good time to reach out to thank your legislators for their work and efforts.


More February News

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