Advocacy Alert: March 7

President Obama's FY15 Budget Released;
Mixed News for Museums

This week President Obama released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015, and it includes many provisions that are important to museums. The $3.9 trillion budget proposal—which will now be considered by Congress—would provide:
  • $226.4 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) overall, a $400,000 decrease, while increasing funding for the IMLS Office of Museum Services by almost $1 million to $31 million overall.
  • $146 million each in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the same as current funding but $8.5 million less than the President’s FY14 budget proposal.
  • $56.4 million to State and Tribal Historic Preservation Offices, administered through the Historic Preservation Fund, which is the same as current funding.
  • $890 million for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate of Education and Human Resources (EHR), which funds the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. While this is an increase of $43 million for EHR, it is difficult to assess the Administration’s commitment to the AISL program until more details of the President’s FY15 budget are released next week. Previous budgets have proposed cutting AISL and consolidating numerous informal STEM programs in which museums participate, proposals which the Alliance has opposed.
      
  • $850 million for the Smithsonian Institution, a $45 million increase over current funding but $19 million less than the president’s FY14 budget proposal.
  • $2.6 billion for the National Park Service.
“The President’s FY15 budget offers mixed news for museums,” said American Alliance of Museums President Ford W. Bell. “But the debate over federal spending now moves to the Congress, and it is up to all of us to make sure Congress understands the educational and economic impact of federal investments in museums. I call on everyone who cares about funding for museums to join our effort in the House of Representatives to urge an increase in funding for IMLS and to join the cause in support of funding for NEA and NEH.”
 
As part of his budget plan, President Obama has again proposed a 28% cap on the value of itemized deductions, including those for charitable donations. This is a proposal the president has repeatedly offered as part of his annual budget request and other legislative proposals.
 
In related news, House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released a tax reform plan last week that would impose a 2% floor on charitable giving deductions, meaning that individuals would have to donate at least 2% of their income to charity before becoming eligible for a tax deduction on the remainder of their charitable donations.
 
“It is disappointing that President Obama’s budget once again proposes a 28% cap on the value of itemized deductions, including those for charitable donations,” Bell said. “It is also concerning that the chairman of the House tax-writing panel has proposed that the first 2% of one’s income donated to charity would no longer be deductible. I am concerned about the impact such a provision would have on museums that rely on charitable gifts, especially those that rely on smaller gifts from middle-income donors.”
 
While the tax reform proposals are not likely to be enacted in their current form, we will continue to monitor these provisions and report back on further developments.
 
“It is clear that the nonprofit community—and the charitable deduction in particular—continues to face threats from numerous directions, and this should be a clear signal to all of us in the nonprofit sector that we need to continue our advocacy efforts,” Bell added.
 
Please visit www.aam-us.org/advocacy to learn more about the Alliance’s advocacy for museums.
 
P.S. Speaking of taxes, will you help us fight for the cause of museums year round by making a tax deductible donation to the Alliance?