Brownback signs order to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission

Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday signed an order to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission and replace it with a private organization to raise funds.

Brownback said the cost-cutting move would save taxpayers $600,000 in the next fiscal year, but the Arts Commission said its elimination would cost the state millions of dollars in lost matching funds and revenue generated by arts and culture.

“As I said in my State of the State speech, the days of ever-expanding government are over,” Brownback said at a news conference where he signed the executive reorganization order.

Brownback said the cut is needed to protect funding of “the core functions of state government.”

State government faces a nearly $500 million budget shortfall.

The state will allocate $200,000 to the Kansas Historical Society to assist in the transition of the Arts Commission from a state agency. Brownback’s order will take effect July 1 unless the Kansas Legislature rejects it.

Arts Commission representatives had no immediate response, but have posted a number of statements on the agency’s website.

Under the proposal, Kansas would lose $778,200 in direct funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and $437,767 in indirect grants and services from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, according to the Arts Commission. In addition, the commission said arts and culture generate more than $15 million in state and local revenue.

Brownback said he thought the non-profit replacement group — the Kansas Arts Foundation — would be able to continue to receive federal funds and raise privately.

The foundation’s board of directors was on hand at Brownback’s signing ceremony.

Bob Swain of Topeka said that when the Topeka city council stopped funding the local arts council it resulted in greater community support of the arts.

“It has risen like a phoenix from the ashes,” he said.