The Massachusetts Center for the Book was re-funded on July 30 thanks to emergency sessions of the state House and Senate convened on the previous two Saturdays. Governor Charlie Baker had slashed budgets for several educational and cultural organizations with his vetoes on July 9. The Center for the Book, whose entire budget comes from the state, was completely defunded. The Massachusetts Cultural Center also faced large cuts and started a petition to build support to override the Governor’s decision. This campaign brought attention to other organizations, including the Center, that had also had their budgets reduced or eliminated.
The Center grants the Massachusetts Book Awards for titles about Massachusetts or written by its residents. It also manages a statewide calendar of library events, hosts a program that encourages school-aged children to write letters to authors, and supports literacy programs across the state. Every state, plus the District of Columbia has such a center. As Krista McLeod, director of the Nevins Public Library in Methuen said in an interview, “We would be the only state without a center for the book. That’s pretty embarrassing for a state that prides itself on its cultural and literary heritage.”
After the Governor’s vetoes, the legislature had until July 31 to override them and restore funding line by line. The timing of the Republican and Democratic national conventions during this period required the state House and Senate to schedule rare Saturday meetings to pass the overrides and other last minute legislation. The House overrode the veto on the Center’s budget on July 23, thanks in large part to Representative Kate Hogan, Chair of the Library Caucus, whom the Center thanked on their Facebook page. The Senate unanimously confirmed the override on July 30 by a vote of 39 to 0, restoring the Center’s $200,000 budget.
Funding to the Massachusetts Cultural Center was also restored, as was the Local Aid to Public Libraries line item. It had been cut by $102,993 by the Governor, but was restored to the full amount of $9,029,000 as part of the overrides. The unrestricted funds support any and all library services including technology and infrastructure.