Arts funding in states across the nation is facing challenges in times of severe budget constraints. In the states surrounding Kansas, some arts budgets are increasing slightly, while others are decreasing.
Missouri, Colorado, Oklahoma and Nebraska all ranked higher than Kansas in per-capita arts funding in fiscal year 1992, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. While Kansas was ranked 50th out of 56 states and territories, Oklahoma ranked 15th, Missouri 26th, Nebraska 28th and Colorado 41st.
THE NATIONWIDE picture is gloomier than in the region. New York chopped its arts budget by 37.5 percent for fiscal year 1992. Despite the cuts, however, New York ranks eighth in per-capita spending.
Tennessee and Virginia cut their budgets by more than 60 percent, and Massachusetts saw a 71.5 percent cut. Overall, state appropriations fell 21.57 percent for fiscal year 1992.
"During fiscal year 1991, many state governments had difficulty balancing revenues with expenditures,'' wrote Sara Dipko in a report by the National Assembly. "A severe recession, a weak economic recovery, mandatory spending for health care and other entitlements, and expectations for slower economic growth in the 1990s are the conditions facing states and their arts councils.''
RECENTLY, Missouri State Rep. Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, suggested eliminating the Missouri Arts Council, which helps to fund such nearby institutions as the Kansas City Symphony and the Missouri Repertory Theatre. But in his budget proposal to the General Assembly, Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft said he wants merely to cut the arts budget for fiscal year 1993 by 5 percent.
"That's pretty much in line with a lot of other agencies' funding,'' said Anthony J. Radich, executive director of the Missouri Arts Council. "We're pleased with that, but it's not good. It's a lean budget year.''
Oklahoma and Nebraska both saw increases in their arts funding last year. In Oklahoma, the governor proposed a 6 percent cut in the arts budget last year, but the Legislature ended up allotting an 8 percent increase, officials said.
COLORADO SAW an increase of 6.3 percent, but later in 1991, the state's Legislature cut all programs to fix a large deficit.
"The picture is really unsettling,'' said Barbara Neal, executive director of the Colorado Council on the Arts. "The Colorado economy is slowly, very slowly, coming out of the recession of the early '80s. But now we're facing how to deal with education and Medicaid. The state requires a balanced budget, and we were facing a $100 million shortfall in the fall and a $200 million shortfall for fiscal 1993. We've taken a very modest cut and lost the Art in Public Places project.''