Friday, June 1, 2012

Funding for the arts restored in new state budget

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — One year ago, Gov. Sam Brownback stunned arts advocates nationwide by vetoing funding for the Kansas Arts Commission.

But on Friday, Brownback, without comment, signed into law a state budget that will include $700,000 for a new Creative Arts Industries Commission.

"It's a big win for Kansas," said Sarah Fizell, spokeswoman for the Kansas Citizens for the Arts.

In 2011, Brownback defied legislators by applying a line-item veto to the $689,000 appropriation for the Arts Commission, saying that public tax dollars shouldn't go to the arts.

The action made Kansas the first state to stop state funding of the arts, and Kansas lost $1.3 million in federal and regional matching funds.

The veto caused a public outcry and reports that many arts initiatives, especially in rural areas, had to scale back their programs.

When the 2012 legislative session started, Brownback proposed merging the un-funded Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission into a new commission under the Kansas Department of Commerce.

In addition, Brownback proposed providing $200,000 from the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which is derived from gaming revenue. Legislators increased that allocation to $700,000 and that is what ended up being approved.

Another bill set up a tax check-off where people can make a donation to the arts on their state income tax form.

The use of gaming revenues will count as public funds for purposes of attracting grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Fizell said several other states have a similar funding and structural model. If the state is able to get its arts plan in order and submitted, it could start receiving matching funds in July 2013, she said.

Fizell said she was glad the fight over arts funding appeared to be over.

"It was solved in a way that was very collaborative. I think publicly funded art is important for the state of Kansas, and this was an enormous effort by the advocates across the state who made this happen," she said.