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Lawmakers Propose Dedicated State Funding for Museums

Two Pennsylvania senators, one Democrat and one Republican, are trying to dig up some new funding for local museums across the commonwealth.

Over the last eight years, state aid to the museums has dropped from $29 million to $2 million for fiscal year 2013-14.

Senators Jay Costa (D-Allegheny) and Pat Browne (R-Lehigh) have authored legislation to dedicate 3 percent of the state’s Realty Transfer Tax, about $8 million to $9 million.   

Costa said that wouldn’t restore the funding level to what it was years ago, but it would help because many museums have had to reduce staff, cut programs and curtail hours of operations.

“We know that our museum industry provides about 13,000 jobs across our commonwealth, many in small communities, and are great economic generators for those communities as well,” Costa said, adding that the museums are an important part of the state’s tourism industry.

The  Senate Democratic leader said to be eligible for the performance-based grants museums would have to “meet the American Alliance of Museums Pledge of Excellence definition and also those that have an annual budget of more than $100,000 could apply for grants that could be up to 15 percent of their overall budget.”

The grants would not be limited to history museums. Military museums, local historical societies, historic houses, nature centers, botanical gardens, planetariums and science and technology centers would also be eligible.

The legislation is expected to be formally introduced when the Senate returns to session next month.