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Bittersweet Symphony

Maryland is facing a structural deficit starting with next year’s fiscal year. Democrats are trying to push the Kirwan Commission recommendations, which would cost billions in new spending and ultimately across the board tax increases.

That didn’t stop the General Assembly from voting to give money to the Symphony:

In a few weeks, Governor Larry Hogan is expected to sign a bill granting an additional $3.2 million to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for the next two years — a potentially crucial step toward resolving a contentious labor dispute and allowing the organization to remain a year-round ensemble.

You may be wondering why a Symphony that is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization is getting a $3.2 million handout from state government. in the form of $1.6 million in FY2020 and FY2021.

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Well, there really isn’t a good reason. The ostensible reason is to help end a labor dispute between the BSO and the union representing its musicians. If you find that to not be a compelling public interest to require taxpayer funds, you’re not alone.

The bill, sponsored by Speaker-wannabe Maggie McIntosh, doesn’t really give a good reason for this funding She just sticks the money in there because she wants to give a handout to the Symphony and wants creates a state-funded working group to study the BSO’s organizational problems.

What makes it all the more maddening is that quite a few House Republicans and every Senate Republican except for Andrew Serafini voted for this bill. It’s hard to sustain an argument that we’re spending too much money on unnecessary legislative spending mandates when we see Republicans joining Democrats in voting for them.

Look, I have nothing against the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Symphonic music isn’t my scene, and I get that it is for some people. I understand that there is a cultural reason for Baltimore to have a symphony. But there is no compelling reason that state government should be providing funding to this. Under the logic of this bill, state government should be subsidizing Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, a drum and fife corps and Crack the Sky based on their cultural and artistic impact to state culture.

What’s next are we going to be asked as taxpayers to pay to open Hammerjacks again?

A Symphony Orchestra is nice to have, but as a private entity the organization needs to sink or swim on its own. The state should not provide funding and Governor Larry Hogan should veto this funding bill in the name of fiscal responsibility.



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