Advocacy Alert: May 21, 2009

Washington Wire: Legislative Update

  • President Obama Releases FY10 Budget Details
  • Museum Community Urges Key Congressional Committees to Support IMLS Reauthorization Package
  • New NEA Chair Nominated, Awaits Confirmation
  • IRA Rollover Legislation Introduced: Take Action
  • Museums Advocacy Day Highlights Reel Now Available

President Releases FY10 Budget Details

On May 8, President Obama released the spending details of his $3.6 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year 2010. The proposal calls for nearly $17 billion in cuts and reductions to 121 programs and supports reinstitution of pay-as-you-go (known as “PAYGO”) budget rules, which require any new spending increases to be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts.   

The Institute of Museum and Library Services’ (IMLS) Office of Museum Services (OMS)—which supports our nation’s 17,500+ museums through a variety of competitive grant programs—is essentially level funded at the FY09 level of $35 million. Certain museums, however—which, by federal statute, are funded as quasi-government entities—fared well, with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum receiving $49 million, the National Gallery of Art receiving $165.2 million and the Smithsonian Institution funded at $759 million.

“The President’s robust request for the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum underscores his support for museums and the role they play in our communities and schools,” said AAM President Ford W. Bell. “Certainly these jewels of our nation’s capital are worthy of significant federal support. But thousands of museums across the country have collections in disrepair, and are struggling just to keep their doors open and community programs in place. I am hopeful that Congress will support an increased investment in the Office of Museum Services at IMLS to help serve museums of all sizes and disciplines, especially in this difficult economic time.” He added, “I urge the museum field to tell Congress that museums—and specifically the Office of Museum Services at IMLS—deserve increased federal support in FY10."

The President’s detailed budget plan also contains a measure—first proposed in February—to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts for those in the upper income levels. “The proposal has not been well-received on Capitol Hill, with many legislators sharing AAM’s concerns about the impact such deductibility restrictions could have on institutions (like museums) that rely heavily on donations,” said AAM President Ford W. Bell. “However, we still need to make sure that Congress hears from us about how this could impact charitable giving, the financial lifeblood of museums.”

Budget Highlights:

  • IMLS’ Office of Museum Services:  $35 million (no increase)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH):  $171.3 million (a $6.3 million increase over FY09, plus $10 million to move the currently independent National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs program to the NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA):  $161 million (a $6 million increase over FY09)
  • Arts in Education Programs at the Department of Education:  $38.16 million (no increase)
  • National Science Foundation educational programs:  $857.8 million (a $12.5 million increase over FY09).  These funds support informal learning experiences designed to increase interest and engagement in the understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
  • National Park Service’s Historic Preservation Fund:  $77.6 million (an $8.1 million increase), including $20 million for Save America's Treasures.

Museum Community Urges Key Congressional Committees to Support IMLS Reauthorization Package 

This week, 60 state, regional and national museum associations joined AAM in sending a letter to key members of Congress outlining the museum field’s plan for IMLS reauthorization. The letter, which was sent to members of the House and Senate committees that will oversee IMLS reauthorization, urged committee members to support an increased investment in the Office of Museum Services; strengthening national programs; conducting state needs assessments; bolstering support for conservation endowment grants and traveling exhibits and aiding smaller museums in competing for federal grants; and, finally, establishing a state grant program for museums.

In addition to explaining the need for these critical reforms, the letter (House version, Senate version) sends a powerful message to legislators that—working together—the museum community has united around a comprehensive package of reforms.

New NEA Chair Nominated, Awaits Confirmation

On May 13, President Obama announced his intention to nominate theater owner and producer Rocco Landesman as the next chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Landesman currently serves as the president and owner of Jujamcyn Theaters and is known for bringing such hits as “The Producers,” “Jersey Boys,” “Proof,” and “Into the Woods” to Broadway. 

“I look forward to working with Mr. Landesman to ensure that museums remain a vital part of our nation’s cultural landscape and educational and economic infrastructure,” said AAM President Ford W. Bell.  Landesman’s appointment must still be approved by the Senate. If confirmed, Landesman would succeed the award-winning poet, Dana Gioia, as chairman.

IRA Rollover Legislation Introduced: Take Action!

On March 2, Representatives Earl Pomeroy (D-N. Dak.) and Wally Herger (R-Calif.) introduced H.R. 1250, the “Public Good IRA Rollover Act of 2009.” The Senate version, S. 864, was introduced by Senators Byron Dorgan (D-N. Dak.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) on April 22. This bill would make permanent the current tax provision that permits tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRA) for charitable purposes. Since enactment in August 2006, the IRA Charitable Rollover has generated a significant amount of new charitable giving for a range of nonprofit organizations, including museums and educational institutions. The provision was extended through the end of 2009 as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. Congressional action is needed for the Rollover to continue beyond 2009.