The $689,000 in arts funding that Governor Sam Brownback vetoed from the Kansas budget this year represents just a tiny fraction of the state's overall annual spending. But because the figure represents Kansas' entire investment in the arts this year, Brownback's veto sparked a much bigger debate over what role, if any, state government should play in arts financing.
Now, a national arts organization is adding fuel to the fire by pointing out that while states took a host of steps to cut their budgets this year, Kansas was alone among them in defunding arts programs altogether. The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies announced the finding in written testimony to a Kansas legislative committee on Wednesday (October 5), the Lawrence Journal-World reports
"Like most areas of state spending, public appropriations to the arts have seen periods of growth and decline tied to state budget conditions," the group said. "However, no state other than Kansas has responded to a recession by eliminating all public funding for its state arts agency."
Brownback, a Republican, faced plenty of scrutiny earlier this year when he announced his veto, and his administration is not backing away from its decision now. The governor contends that the state should not be spending money on the arts while it makes cuts in more essential programs, and he believes that private fundraising can fill the void left by state dollars. That fundraising is now under way; at the same time, arts advocates are lobbying legislators to restore state funding during their next session.