Topeka Arts advocates on Thursday supported legislation forming a new state creative industries commission but said it must be adequately funded to offset the effect of Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of arts funding last year.
And legislators were warned by a regional arts official that Kansas would lose more funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Funding and Mid-America Arts Alliance if the state doesn’t reconstitute a publicly vetted arts plan soon.
“We Kansans are at a crucial moment,” said Mary Kennedy McCabe, executive director of Mid-America Arts Alliance. “If federal funding is not secured within a mere 29 weeks, Kansas will face two and a half more years without federal public arts support,” she said.
McCabe told the Senate Ways and Means Committee that qualified, professional staff must be hired and adequate appropriations made to get the state arts plan in order and submitted to the NEA by Oct. 1.
The committee took no action on the bill but directed staff to put together amendments to the legislation to take into account McCabe’s concerns.
Last year, Brownback vetoed $689,000 in funding for the Arts Commission, saying that public tax dollars shouldn’t go to the arts. The veto made Kansas the first state to stop state funding of the arts. Kansas also lost $1.3 million in federal and regional matching funds.
Facing political heat over his veto, at the start of the 2012 legislative session, Brownback proposed merging the un-funded Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission under the Kansas Department of Commerce and providing $200,000 in funding from gaming revenues.
Senate Bill 440 would accomplish that structural change. Arts advocates supported that move, but they also said more funding was necessary.
Committee members noted that the Film Commission already receives about $110,000, so Brownback’s plan would provide $90,000 for the remaining arts, which is far less than the $689,000 he vetoed.
“My concern is, I don’t think it’s enough,” said state Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, Kan.
Sarah Fizell, spokeswoman for Kansas Citizens for the Arts, agreed. “We absolutely feel a larger appropriation is needed,” Fizell said.
Vicki Buening, a board member for the Kansas Citizens for the Arts, said she and her husband paid $8,081 in state taxes in 2010, and 29 cents of that went to the public funding of the arts. That small amount, she said, ensured that all Kansans had access to the arts, provided educational opportunities, and fostered economic development.
“I believe that public funding for the arts is crucial to the healthy economic development of our state, requiring a minimal investment that reaps huge dividends,” she said.