Despite fears the ax would fall hard on arts funding, Gov. Joan Finney has proposed a budget that cuts only slightly the state's contribution to the Kansas Arts Commission.
"I heard rumors that there would be a 50 percent cut, but at the last minute the money was replaced,'' said Rep. John Solbach, D-Lawrence.
Released last week, the Finney budget offers about $1 million to support grants for residencies, individuals, and non-profit arts groups as well as the administrative staff of the state arts commission. The proposal would mean a cut of about 5.7 percent from state funds in fiscal year 1992, when the governor's budget is compared to figures the commission submitted last year to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.
The National Endowment for the Arts and private sources contribute more than $600,000 in additional funds, bringing the proposed total for fiscal year 1993 to $1,667,277.
LAST YEAR, the Legislature funded part of the arts commission budget out of the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which is drawn from 90 percent of the state gaming revenues fund.
But according to the governor's proposal, the commission's budget would come directly from the state general fund. Legislators and arts administrators had feared the EDIF money would be removed and not be replaced.
"My understanding in talking to people in the budget office is that Gov. Finney is placing the EDIF money directly toward job development and job enhancement," said Dorothy Ilgen, executive director of the arts commission. "So initially when we started going through the budget process, we appealed to the governor to keep that level of funding. It looked like it would be a tricky thing this year.''
THE ARTS commission is giving at least $110,000 to Douglas County groups in fiscal year 1992, according to commission estimates. Ann Evans, director of the Lawrence Arts Center, which receives about 7 percent of its budget from the state, said she was relieved by the governor's decision.
"I was hoping and praying this would happen,'' she said. "If it had come out differently, we would have been swimming in muddy water, because we (the state arts community) don't want to go up against agriculture or education in a funding fight.''
Last year the National Assembly ranked Kansas 50th out of 56 states and territories in per-capita arts funding, and the state ranked 39th out of 50 states in the percentage of its budget allotted to arts agencies.
Solbach said he doesn't anticipate any significant increase in arts commission funding until the state finances and the tax structure improve.
"WE'VE GOT a pretty good economy,'' Solbach said. "We've had a recession, but in Kansas it's been pretty low. It's not that the wealth of the state holds the budget back. It's just that through particular decisions that have been made, the revenue isn't flowing in.''
Meanwhile, Ilgen said, the demand for arts activities across the state is growing. But private and local funding sources may not be.
"One thing they talk about is they're finding local resources and funding become tighter and tighter,'' she said. "Corporations out there are still giving, but they're probably giving less money. A number of applications are dealing with having a hard time finding local matching funds. They're just having to work harder.''
Ilgen said she tells arts organizations that are considering applying for funds to plan for scarcity.
"WE LET people know that it's extremely competitive, and the competition increases every year,'' she said. "You don't discourage people, but you give them realistic expectations.''
The arts commission itself has lost about $80,000 in administrative funds since 1990, Ilgen said. The staff has been cut from 10 to eight.
"We're a leaner, meaner agency,'' she said.
Solbach said he doesn't foresee problems arising over the arts commission budget during this legislative session.
"I don't think it's on anybody's hit list,'' he said.