Saturday, May 28, 2011

Kansas Arts Agency Eliminated

May 28, 2011—In response to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s decision to veto funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, issued the following statement:

Americans for the Arts is disappointed with Governor Sam Brownback’s decision to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission (KAC) by vetoing the legislative branch’s budget for the agency. His action not only robs the citizens of his state of access to quality arts programming, but is also a direct affront to his campaign platform to create jobs and rebuild the state’s economy.  Kansas now holds the dubious distinction of being the only state without a functioning state agency in charge of promoting the arts and culture.

Further, the KAC received a matching grant of $778,200 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2011 to support Kansas jobs, artists and cultural groups. That funding is now lost for 2012 with the elimination of the KAC, the only agency in Kansas that is eligible for the NEA’s matching grants. Kansas also loses the $437,767 the KAC brought in from its regional partner, the Mid-America Arts Alliance. This $1.2 million funding shortfall far exceeds the $689,000 KAC appropriation recommended by the Kansas legislature during budget negotiations.
We at Americans for the Arts understand that times are tough, and governors across the country are facing hard budget decisions. We further recognize that the arts will have to do their part to ensure state governments are able to make ends meet. So while some cuts to arts funding are expected, they should be proportional to those of other government services.  We all have to do our part. The arts alone should not be sacrificed as they have been in Kansas as the total elimination of the KAC does not substantially solve Kansas’s budget deficit but rather removes $1.2 million in federal money from Kansas’ economy—money that will now go to other states.
During the KAC’s 45-year history, Kansas’ nonprofit arts and culture sector has become a booming industry—one that generates $153.5 million annually in direct statewide economic activity. This spending–$80.3 million by nonprofit arts and culture organizations and an additional $73.2 million in event-related spending by their audiences–supports 4,612 full-time equivalent jobs, generates $95.1 million in household income to local residents, and delivers $15.6 million in local and state government revenue.  With modest grants to non-profit arts groups, the KAC has been the driving force in establishing arts and cultural organizations in many of Kansas’ most rural communities, providing ALL citizens, not just those in large urban areas, with access to quality artistic experiences.

More than 30 years ago, I was inspired by the arts and arts leadership in Kansas when I attended my first national meeting of locally based arts leaders held that year in Wichita. Today, as legislative sessions across the country wrap up, we hope that lawmakers in other states are inspired by the actions of the Kansas legislature—not those of Governor Brownback—to make their budget decisions. Since the governor issued an executive reorganization order to effectively eliminate the KAC, Kansas citizens have sent 5,000 letters, emails and telephone calls urging their representatives to support arts funding. As a result, both the Kansas Senate and House presented a budget bill to the Governor which invested state funds in the KAC for the next fiscal year. They heard the voices of Kansans, and they responded. We at Americans for the Arts applaud the Kansas legislature for listening to the wishes of their constituents.

But now, with Governor Brownback’s veto, the KAC is abolished. While the arts community mourns the loss of this vital institution, it is ultimately the citizens of Kansas that suffer. For a mere 0.005% of the state's $13.8 billion budget, Governor Brownback could have preserved the arts and the financial benefits they provide flowing to Kansas communities, especially those rural communities, which need every possible economic asset available in these difficult times.

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