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Lawmakers working on funding options for MAC

Fri., Feb. 18, 2011

OLYMPIA – The Washington Legislature may find a way to keep the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture and the state museum in Tacoma open, despite Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to close public access to save money.

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said Thursday a coalition of Spokane and Tacoma legislators is working on a strategy to reduce state support over time, but provide a “bridge” of state money while the museums look for financial support elsewhere.

For the MAC, Brown said, a possible source of funding would be the region’s tribes because the museum has an extensive collection of Native American artifacts.

Gregoire’s proposed budget for 2011-’13 cuts state support for the MAC and the State Historical Museum in Tacoma by some $3.3 million, severely reducing staff. It would leave them with skeleton staffs to preserve their collections but unable to be open to the public.

Officials for both museums told a House committee last month that they would essentially cease to exist if the governor’s plan stays in the budget that the Legislature will rewrite and adopt later this spring.

It wouldn’t be the first time Gregoire proposed changes for the two museums and the Legislature disposed of them. In 2008, the governor proposed merging the Washington State Historical Society, which operates the Tacoma museum, and the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, which operates the MAC; Brown blocked its introduction in the Senate, and it died.

A merger remains unlikely, Brown said. The two societies serve different areas and seem to work better as separate entities, she said.

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