Topeka With the state surplus growing, and because Gov. Sam Brownback wrongly predicted Kansas would continue to receive federal arts funding, supporters of the arts on Tuesday called on Brownback to restore state assistance to the Kansas Arts Commission.
But Brownback's office said that wasn't going to happen.
His spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag reiterated Brownback's statement that arts funding was not a core function of government and that the governor wants to "right-size" state government during tough economic times.
"You don't go out and buy art for the house when you are behind on the mortgage," Jones-Sontag said.
But several arts officials and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said economic concerns are precisely why Brownback should restore the $689,000 to the Kansas Arts Commission that he vetoed.
"This decision by Gov. Brownback was penny-wise and pound-foolish," Davis said.
Since Brownback's veto, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mid-America Arts Alliance have declared that Kansas is ineligible for $1.3 million in federal matching grants. Brownback and his administration had earlier told legislators that the federal funding would continue to flow to Kansas.
And Davis said that since the state's current reserve fund totals $180 million and is growing, the state could afford to fund the Arts Commission.
Several artists and arts officials from towns across the state also urged Brownback to reverse his decision in his next budget proposal, saying the lack of state funding would result in lost jobs and arts projects, especially in rural areas.
Louis Copt, a Lecompton artist who was designated earlier this year by the Kansas Arts Commission as the 2011 Governor's Artist, said he was concerned about how Kansas would be portrayed outside the state, and how Kansas children would view the arts. "We have to show them the arts are alive in Kansas," he said.
Gail Parsons, executive director of the Junction City Arts Council, said the group has lost both state and city funding. She said that affects the organization's ability to raise private dollars. "When we lose public funding, it sends the message that this is not so important. People start backing off," she said.
Melissa Windsor, executive director of the Emporia Arts Council, said public assistance was crucial to operate the town's new arts center that took years to plan for and build.
"Today it remains under-staffed and under-utilized due to a lack of public funding," she said.