Brownback rethinking state funding of the arts, officials say

Gov. Sam Brownback is working on ways to provide funding for the arts after his controversial veto last year that made Kansas the first state in the nation to stop funding the arts.

Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said Monday arts funding strategies are being developed by the governor’s staff.

She said that the funds may be channeled through the Kansas Department of Commerce in the form of grants and that the still-existing but unfunded Arts Commission could be merged with the Kansas Film Commission.

“The grants would be more focused on job creation,” Gregory said.

The 2012 legislative session started Monday, and Brownback will outline his priorities in the State of the State address Wednesday.

At a Lawrence Chamber of Commerce breakfast with legislators, Gregory said some of the avenues being explored are providing arts funding through the sales of a special arts supporter license plate or donations through a tax checkoff.

In a recent interview with the Lawrence Journal-World, Brownback said he would revisit the issue but didn’t elaborate.

Brownback vetoed state funding of the Kansas Arts Commission, saying that the arts was not a core function of state government and that he expected private donors to step up. After his veto of the $689,000 state appropriation, the state lost $1.2 million in federal funding.

Arts supporters have criticized Brownback, saying the veto has hurt arts programs statewide, particularly in rural areas.

Sarah Carkhuff Fizell, a spokeswoman for Kansas Citizens for the Arts, said she was encouraged that Brownback may propose a new funding plan.

“We are excited about the potential that the governor appears willing to open this up and work with getting this whole arts thing back on track, but we don’t have enough details to know what this looks like,” Fizell said.

She added: “The arts are jobs and economic development, and that is crucial to moving Kansas forward.”