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State Budget Cuts Hit Arts, Tourism


December 03, 2012

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's $170 million in budget cuts took the pruning shears to funding for many arts and tourism groups across the state, a move that will likely force many of those organizations to cut costs, push for more private donations, or boost revenue to make ends meet.

In all, more than two dozen arts and tourism groups, museums, aquariums and zoos lost some state funding in the first round of spending cuts, as policymakers look to close a $365 million deficit for the current fiscal year.

The Greater Hartford organizations that took the biggest hit include the Connecticut Science Center, which will lose $25,224 in state funding; The Bushnell, which will see $10,000 in state funds cut from its budget; and Mystic Aquarium, which will see its state funding trimmed by $24,804.

Meanwhile, tourism districts will see $59,824 in cuts, and an $80,000 grant for culture, tourism and arts is also being eliminated.

The Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), which funds most of the arts and tourism programs in the state, saw its overall budget trimmed by about $1.1 million, or 2 percent of its total budget.

James Watson, a spokesman for DECD, said the agency doesn't expect the budget cuts to materially impact the department's ability to carry out its mission, which includes funding programs that aim to retain and create jobs, support the development of affordable housing, and boost tourism and the arts.

All three of those areas, however, did lose some funding.

Watson also noted that the Malloy Administration has made efforts to boost funding for tourism and the arts since coming into office. One example is the $27 million "Still Revolutionary" marketing campaign that aims to brand Connecticut as a tourist destination and an attractive place to do business.

"This administration has done a lot to increase funding to arts and tourism," Watson said.

Malloy's $170 million in budget cuts is only the first round of expected reductions in state spending. With the state facing a budget shortfall of about $365 million in the current fiscal year, lawmakers are expected to hold a special session sometime this month to make further cuts.

Under state law, Malloy has the authority to rescind up to 5 percent of any line item in the budget and 3 percent of any fund without seeking legislative changes to the state budget, authorities say.

His reductions include $161.7 million in cuts to executive agencies, $3 million in cuts agreed to by legislative leaders, and $5.8 million in judicial branch cuts.

State budget director Ben Barnes said the state's budget deficit is a result of a sluggish national economy and higher than expected spending on the state Medicaid program.

When the state faces budget shortfalls, as it has on many occasions in the past few years, the arts and tourism communities are typically in the cross hairs of potential funding cuts.

Beth Hyland, a spokesperson for The Bushnell, which is losing $10,000 in state aid, said the venue is appreciative of the state support they receive on an annual basis, but understands Connecticut is going through difficult fiscal times.

"Any money going away from us is going to have an impact," Hyland said. "But we understand this is a hard time."

Hyland said The Bushnell will have to make budget adjustments as it goes through the season, and will likely be more aggressive in going after private donations and sponsorships to try to make up for the shortfall.

Meanwhile, Mystic Aquarium is losing $24,804 in state funding.

Steve Coan, president and CEO of Sea Research Foundation, which operates Mystic Aquarium said, "We are confident that the Governor continues to be a strong advocate for tourism and for attractions and cultural institutions."

Coan declined to comment further.

Other arts and tourism organizations losing money include: Greater Hartford Arts Council ($3,787), Maritime Center Authority ($21,261), New Haven Festival of Arts and Ideas ($31,891), Palace Theater ($15,148), Amistad Vessel ($15,148), Beardsley Zoo ($14,174), and the Twain/Stowe homes ($3,827).

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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