Like a budgetary Paul Bunyan, the state legislature swung the broad axe. In the area of heritage and culture, the blade did major damage, but not as much as it would have had the legislature approved Gov. Christine Gregoire's draconian suggestions which included closing the state's historical museums, eliminating the state arts commission, and canceling all capital grants for state heritage projects.
There were even a few major wins, such as securing a revenue stream for King County arts and heritage funding. For most, sheer survival constituted a victory.
Still, if the axe didn't clear-cut the forest, it felled a lot of timber and left some programs living on a biennium of borrowed time and leaving big questions about long-term funding unanswered. Culture and heritage efforts survived for now, but is the state's commitment sustainable?
With the governor's line-item veto pen still pending, here's a rundown of some of the good and bad news.
Good news: The state's two major history museums, the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma and the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC) in Spokane, will remain open.
Bad news: The Tacoma museum will close one additional day per week (open days will be Wed-Sun), and must reduce programs and staff. The Washington State Historical Society took a $700,000 cut over the last biennium and a number of programs were also slashed. Director Dave Nicandri says "the Pacific Northwest history conference is itself 'history.'"
The MAC took a 4.5 percent budget cut from where they ended last biennium (which also featured big cuts, so the total cut was really about 12 percent). Director Ron Rector says they have bigger worries ahead. An expected blockbuster Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit is coming this summer and should be a revenue boon and help the MAC make its budget for next year. But Rector says they don't know how they'll replace those revenues for the second year of the biennium. They'll certainly have to lay off staff to compensate.
Good news: The Washington State Arts Commission lives on a reduced budget, but it was not eliminated as the governor proposed.
Good News: King County's 4Culture will be funded, continuing to tap county hotel tax revenues, and healthy long-term funding is now assured.
Bad News: The Capital Heritage Grant program identified $10 million in grants for the biennium for local projects including improvements to historical properties and museums. The vast majority of that funding was not forthcoming, with only nine out of 29 getting the go-ahead. The total was $1.168 million in matching grants. A few projects received funding elsewhere in the budget.
Good News: Heritage grant winners include $610,000 for City of Vancouver's historic Officer's Row, $60,000 for the Fort Nisqually Granary, $30,000 for the Blue Mt. Heritage Society, $118,000 for the schooner Martha Washington Foundation, and $25,000 for the La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum, among others.
Good News: There were some other capital grants for cultural heritage groups in the Dept. of Commerce "Building for Arts" budget. These included $70,000 for Town Hall Seattle, $250,000 for the Colville Tribal Museum, $169,000 for the Grays Harbor Historic Seaport, $518,000 for the Bainbridge Art Museum.
Good News: $750,000 was found for the fund that helps to rehabilitate landmark county court houses and $200,000 was tagged for the incredibly popular "Barn Again" program that preserves heritage barns. Both funds were cut but avoided being zeroed out.
Bad news: The state's tourism office was zeroed out. A private industry alliance is forming to try and fill the gap.
Good News: The State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation was not eliminated as an independent agency and merged with the Department of Natural Resources, a Gregoire proposal that didn't make much sense. Also, under DNR, the state Board on Geographic Names, previously eliminated by the legislature, has been revived in altered form.
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