Topeka A proposal that would allow a tax checkoff program for the arts drew no interest before a legislative committee on Monday as lawmakers continued to wrestle with Gov. Sam Brownback's veto of arts funding.
No one testified in favor or against the measure before the House Taxation Committee.
Chairman Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, said the committee will probably approve the bill at some point. The legislation has about 40 House sponsors including House Speaker Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson.
"It's a fine way for individuals to be able to contribute," Carlson said.
House Bill 2454 would allow taxpayers the option of adding a donation on their Kansas individual income tax form to the Kansas Arts Commission Checkoff Fund. The monies would be used by the Arts Commission.
Last year, Brownback vetoed the Legislature's $689,000 appropriation to the Arts Commission, making Kansas the first state to stop state assistance of the arts.
Brownback had said private dollars would fill in the void and that the state would continue to be eligible for $1.3 million in federal and regional arts funding. Neither turned out to be the case.
The Arts Commission still exists, but as an un-funded group. A private foundation for the arts has raised more than $100,000, according to Linda Browning Weis, who is chairwoman of the Arts Commission.
Weis said she supported the checkoff proposal but that the Arts Commission had not taken an official position on it yet. "We are open to all sources of alternate funding," she said.
Sarah Carkhuff Fizell, spokeswoman for the Kansas Citizens for the Arts, which is working to restore state arts funding during the current legislative session, said of the tax checkoff, "This isn't really public funding for the arts."
The checkoff and a proposal to sell arts license plates will raise some funds, but not nearly as much as what Brownback vetoed and the matching federal dollars, she said.
"We have to have a commitment by the state to fund the arts," Fizell said.
If the legislation were approved, the arts checkoff would join four other, which include ones for Meals on Wheels, Non-Game Wildlife, known as the Chickadee checkoff, Breast Cancer and Military Relief.
Those four together received $415,511 last year.
Richard Cram, director of policy and research with the Kansas Department of Revenue, told the committee that when new checkoffs are added, the already existing ones usually lose revenue. For example, in 2006, the Meals on Wheels checkoff received $219,000. But the next year, it received only $132,000 as two more checkoffs were added.
And the total for the existing checkoffs has also been decreasing over the past five years.
Cram also noted that starting up the arts tax checkoff would cost approximately $88,000 for programming and testing to modify the automated tax system.
On another front, Brownback has proposed spending about $200,000 on a merged Arts Commission and Film Commission. The new Creative Industries Commission would allocate funds to arts-related businesses that can show they can create jobs.