State cuts to the arts raises familiar themes

I have heard from many of you with questions and comments about the Kansas Arts Commission, what it means to Kansas and, specifically, to our District. I?ve been researching the issues, and I also spoke directly to Gov. Brownback last Wednesday. My research isn?t done, but here?s what I know about the matter right now.

Gov. Brownback stated he intends to continue funding the arts. He states the cut is designed not to impact arts funding, but to eliminate funding a paid staff?totally?and have the arts funding run through a charitable corporation (an arts council) designed to enhance the arts, what we in the tax world call a Section 501(c)(3) organization.

He wants to take advantage of the idea that people who support the arts are passionate and will likely volunteer to run it.

I have heard from the Kansas Arts Commission (volunteers and workers). Its representatives believe ?outside? funding will cease if the commission is switched to an arts council.

As I see it, the questions we need to answer are:

(1) Will the state fund the arts if there is no arts commission? The governor says yes, at the same level, but cut the funding for the paid staff. His budget appears to appropriate only $200,000 as a one-time payment to the new arts council in fiscal year 2012, and no funding for 2013 or thereafter. I?ll need more information.

(2) A letter from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) asserts it will send no money to an arts council that isn?t supported by its own state, and I?m told?no documentation, yet?the Mid-America Arts Alliance, of which Kansas is a member, will send no matching grants if the commission is disbanded. Are its issues the same as the NEA? I am working to get answers.

(3) I know 49 states have an arts agency and Vermont is the only state without one. Vermont has an arts council of the type Gov. Brownback advocates. The NEA apparently does send money to Vermont, so will it exclude Kansas for following suit? Is the sole issue Kansas? funding?

The governor?s plan will send payments for the arts through the Kansas Historical Society, which is how Kansas funds its Humanities Council (for convenience of appropriations and oversight). I am asking whether that is an issue for the NEA.

The idea of switching to an arts council seems like a good idea. But if Kansas is not eligible for grants, do we cut off our noses to spite our faces?

To some, funding for the arts is always a waste of money. To others, it is part of the very fabric of their community. We need to work to understand each other?s views if we are to live together in community. We must think beyond our noses.

The House and Senate each have 60 days after the governor?s executive order of last week to disapprove of the commission?s demise. Unless one of the two disapproves, it will happen as he proposes. I can say this: The House will not vote to disapprove the governor?s executive order. The Senate may consider the issue.

Here?s the dilemma: We all advocate less government spending. Most Kansans now realize that every cut, however, impacts people and programs. This arts dilemma is just a microcosm of the Kansas budget. This theme will echo again and again throughout the session?as to each proposed cut.

The governor believes his proposed cuts will be, in the final analysis, the best we can do in a bad situation. The federal ARRA funding will be gone as of July 1, and we have many drastic cuts to make to balance our budget. The alternative would be a massive tax increase, and that would be inappropriate?unthinkable.

You may contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at 201 Meadow Lane, Marion, KS 66861, or at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call me at 620-382-2133. My phone number during the session (through about May 15) is 785-296-7636. If you?re coming to Topeka, let me know; my office is now in the Capitol.

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