Smithsonian may charge for admission

Admission to the Smithsonian Institution may set visitors back $7.50, after a government task force proposed cutting the Smithsonian’s budget.

The National Commission on Fiscal Reform – a bipartisan task force created by President Barack Obama – proposed a $225 million funding cut for the Smithsonian Nov. 10.

The commission – whose main objective is to identify opportunities to balance the federal budget and reduce U.S. debt – suggested admission to the free museums should cost $7.50 to make up for the lost funding.

A spokesman from the NCFR said no program is safe from budget cuts during this economic climate.

“You cannot say we need to get the budget under control and then say, ‘Oh, but these programs can’t be touched,'” NCFR Communication Director Fred Baldassaro said. “We have to live within our means and hold government accountable for the results.”

The commission’s proposal, however, is not the final word on the issue.

“Commission members have to get 14 of 18 members to agree for any recommendation to pass through the commission and then [it] can be presented to Congress. It’s up to Congress to do what they wish at point,” Baldassaro said.

This is not the first proposal to cut the Smithsonian’s budget. There have been “several” attempts to charge for entrance to the museums, chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institution Linda St. Thomas said.

“We were established in 1846 and we have never charged admission because we feel that these museums are trusts to the American people,” Thomas said. “And just because you can’t pay admission doesn’t mean you should be deprived of seeing everything these museums have to offer.”

The Smithsonian consists of 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park in D.C. and nine research facilities.

The idea of charging admission was not met with enthusiasm by some GW students.

“One of the best things we have access to [in D.C.] are the Smithsonians and I think it would take away the uniqueness of them if they started charging admission,” sophomore Neil Bhargava said.

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