Monday, April 2, 2012

Arts advocates confident in proposal to start new state agency

— Arts advocates Friday said they were optimistic the Kansas Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback were on track to provide funding for a new state arts agency.

"This is really significant," Sarah Fizell, spokeswoman for Kansas Citizens for the Arts, said.

Last year, Brownback vetoed $689,000 in funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, saying that public tax dollars shouldn’t go to the arts. The veto made Kansas the first state to stop state funding of the arts. Kansas also lost $1.3 million in federal and regional matching funds.

Facing a public outcry over his veto, at the start of the 2012 legislative session, Brownback proposed merging the un-funded Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission into a new entity called the Creative Industries Commission and placing that under the Kansas Department of Commerce.

In addition, Brownback proposed providing $200,000 from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which is derived from gaming revenues.

A House-Senate budget conference committee has increased that amount by $500,000 from the EDIF, bringing the total to $700,000. A separate bill would establish the Creative Industries Commission.

"We think he (Brownback) is on board. He is the one who decided to start the conversation," Fizell said, referring to his proposal at the start of the 2012 legislative session.

Fizell said the funding and administrative resources of the Commerce Department would help put Kansas back in place for federal and regional matching funds next year. She said several other states have a similar funding and structural model as the one proposed in Kansas.

"It's really great for Kansas," Fizell said. "It's really great for rural communities."

After Brownback's veto, arts supporters said rural communities would be the ones to suffer most because they relied more than larger cities on a statewide arts program to help them get grants.