House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga today sent a a letter to Governor Hogan asking him to hold the new funding for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Yesterday, the BSO announced it was significantly cutting back its performance schedule, canceling performances it announced just last month. Citing the BSO’s ongoing financial struggles, the General Assembly passed House Bill 1404, providing $3.2 million in additional funding for the BSO over the next two years. The first half of the funding, $1.6 million, is set to be released July 1. Since the BSO’s announcement yesterday, it has been revealed that the symphony has lost over $16 million in the last decade.
“Our members were divided in their support of House Bill 1404,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “While we all appreciated the history and importance of the BSO, and want to see it thrive, the state cannot throw taxpayer money at the problem. There is clearly a serious problem within the BSO and that needs to be addressed before any more funding is provided by the state.”
According to the Department of Legislative Services, over the last 10 years, the BSO has received a significant amount of taxpayer dollars; an average of $1.9 million a year, which increased to over $2 million in the last three years. The dollars approved in House Bill 1404 would be in addition to what the BSO already receives. The state has also expended $100 million for the construction and renovation of the Strathmore, whose primary tenant is the BSO.
“That the BSO could still lose millions of dollars even while being supplemented by taxpayer dollars leads us to believe we must now tread carefully when considering investing additional taxpayer dollars,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. “Yesterday’s revelation that the BSO’s musicians continued to receive 9 week paid vacations during the times of fiscal hardship should certain give us pause. Our hardworking taxpayers should not be on the hook for these extravagant expenses.”
House Bill 1404 also creates a workgroup to make recommendations regarding cost containment strategies and audience development. The workgroup must report its recommendations in a financial report to the General Assembly on or before October 1, 2019.
“We are requesting the Governor withhold the funding provided in House Bill 1404 until the BSO can produce a financial plan that will make them solvent,” said Delegate Szeliga. “Short of that, we would recommend that the funding be withheld pending the findings and recommendations of the workgroup.