Advocacy Alert: Aug. 28

Leading Federal Budget Proposals Could Spell Bad News for Museums; Save the Date for Museums Advocacy Day 2013 (Feb. 25-26)

Two federal budget proposals—one written by President Obama and one written by Congressman Paul Ryan—have gotten a lot of press attention lately. And while neither budget plan is slated to be enacted as is, each proposal contains serious threats to museums. Here is a brief summary of some relevant issues.

President Obama's FY13 budget plan:

  • IMLS: Supports level-funding for the IMLS Office of Museums Services.
  • NEA/NEH: Proposes 5.5 percent increases each for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
  • Tax Reform: Supports a so-called “Buffett Rule” that would require taxpayers earning more than $1 million per year to pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. (While the budget pledges not to disadvantage individuals making large charitable contributions, how this would be achieved is not clear.)
  • Charitable Giving: Proposes capping the value of itemized deductions, including those for charitable giving, at 28 percent for individual taxpayers earning more than $200,000 or couples earning more than $250,000. Also reinstates some temporarily suspended limits on itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers.
  • Federal Agency Spending: Adheres to the overall spending limits for federal agencies that were agreed to as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
  • Status: Proposed in February 2012.

Congressman Paul Ryan's FY13 budget plan:

  • IMLS: Declares that funding for IMLS is “not a core federal responsibility.”
  • NEA/NEH: Calls for the elimination of all federal funding for the NEA and NEH.
  • Tax Reform: Proposes dramatically reducing individual and corporate tax rates by $4.6 trillion over 10 years (according to the independent, nonpartisan Tax Policy Center).
  • Charitable Giving: Pledges to offset these costs by eliminating or scaling back tax breaks, although it does not identify any in particular. (The sheer size of the savings required—almost eight times larger than President Obama's proposed limits on itemized deductions—could mean changes to many of the largest and most popular tax breaks, possibly including those for charitable giving.)
  • Federal Agency Spending: Cuts overall funding for federal agencies not involved in national defense below levels specified in the Budget Control Act.
  • Status: Passed the U.S. House in March 2012.

“Both parties have proposed dramatic changes in public policy that would transform the world in which museums operate,” said Alliance President Ford W. Bell. “Now more than ever, it is imperative that we help legislators understand the critical role museums play in achieving the nation's economic, educational, cultural and scientific goals.”

Plan to join us for Museums Advocacy Day 2013 (Feb. 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C., on the metro-accessible campus of The George Washington University) and help make the case that museums are essential education providers and economic drivers in every community. Alliance members attend for free!

"Following the November elections, there could be 100 new Members of Congress—and possibly a new president—in January 2013," added Bell. "I urge the museum field to join us for Museums Advocacy Day to ensure our elected officials will support museums in 2013."