Advocacy Alert: Dec. 16

FY 2015 Funding Legislation Finalized

Over the weekend, Congress passed legislation that will fund most of the federal government for Fiscal Year 2015, which runs through the end of September. With $1.1 trillion overall—almost identical to last year—the FY 2015 legislation did not present much opportunity for increases. In fact, some agencies will face reductions in funding. In this climate, many of the museum field’s priorities fared relatively well. 

The legislation includes: 

  • $30.1 million for the Office of Museum Services at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, equal to the current funding level;
  • $146 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, level funding;
  • $146 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities, level funding;
  • $2.276 billion for National Park Service Operations, a $39 million increase;
  • $56.4 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, level funding;
  • $55 million for the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, level funding;
  • $820 million for the Smithsonian Institution, a $15 million increase; and
  • $365 million for the National Archives and Records Administration, a $5 million cut.
“While we should be heartened that Congress continues to support museums’ funding priorities, it is clear that we still have a lot of work to do,” said Alliance President Ford W. Bell. “In an era of tight budgets, policymakers need to know that museums are essential in their communities, and I hope everyone will join us at Museums Advocacy Day 2015 to make that case with legislators and their staff.” 

Though funding for the National Endowment for the Arts remains level, the legislation will increase the limits for NEA’s Arts and Artifacts Indemnity program, as requested by the Alliance's April testimony and by the Association of Art Museum Directors. The program has cost taxpayers virtually nothing in the last 40 years and saves museums roughly $30 million in insurance costs every year.
In addition to funding these important investments in our nation’s museums, the package also contained language reauthorizing Brand USA—America’s public-private partnership dedicated to increasing inbound international travel—through 2020. The Alliance had previously joined over 300 travel industry organizations in urging Congress to take this action.

Charitable Tax Incentive Legislation Narrowly Fails; Extension Still Likely for 2014 Only

With seemingly everyone in Washington, D.C. talking about tax reform, Congress spent much of the past year debating more than 50 individual tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. This past week, last minute legislation that would have made three charitable tax incentives permanent—including the IRA Charitable Rollover—narrowly failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the House of Representatives. While this vote was disappointing, it should be noted that those who opposed the bill mainly voiced concerns about the cost of the provisions and the legislative process, rather than the policy itself. Congress is likely to clear legislation in the next few days that will retroactively restore these tax incentives for the 2014 tax year only.
“The IRA Charitable Rollover is a vital tool in helping museums fulfill their educational mission, and Congress’ inability to permanently reinstate it is extremely disappointing,” said Alliance President Ford W. Bell. "This kind of limited, retroactive fix only gives donors two weeks to make a donation, and it will mean fewer charitable rollover gifts to museums and other charities. Congress should reconsider, and permanently reinstate this important incentive.”

Defense Policy Bill Clears Congress

For the 53rd consecutive year, Congress also passed legislation this week that will help direct national defense policy in FY 2015. While not normally of primary interest to the museum field, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY 2015 was a significant victory because it excluded harmful anti-historic preservation language that the Alliance had joined a coalition in opposing.
This year’s NDAA also contained long-sought language creating a commission to study the establishment of a National Women’s History Museum, as well as provisions to reauthorize the American Battlefield Protection Program and to create or enhance a number of other national parks, monuments, and memorials. 
P.S. As we close out the legislative year, we hope you will join the cause today by either registering for Museums Advocacy Day 2015 or making a tax-deductible contribution to support our ongoing advocacy efforts.