June 3, 2011

Announcement from the Kansas Arts Commission

It is stunning to read these words on the front page of the Kansas Arts Commission's website:

"On Saturday, May 28, 2011, Governor Sam Brownback line-item vetoed state funding for the Kansas Arts Commission...The Kansas Arts Commission will host an open meeting on Thursday, June 16, in Lawrence.

All Kansas Arts Commission programs and grant operations for Fiscal Year 2012 have been terminated effective immediately."
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies released the following statement. Jonathan Katz of NASAA also authored a strong position paper on this event, A False Economy: Arts Vetoed in Kansas.
Today, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback issued a line-item veto of the Kansas Arts Commission (KAC) budget. I wanted to alert you to this grave news right away, to share what facts are currently available, and to prepare you to answer questions from the media and from policymakers in your state.

What Happened?
Today's veto action followed a February attempt by the governor to dismantle the agency via executive order. This move was met with loud public outcry, a Senate override of the order, and a subsequent legislative recommendation for a $689,000 appropriation to KAC. Nevertheless, Brownback issued layoff notices for all KAC staff in May, then used his line-item veto authority to zero out all the agency's funds.

What Next?
A legislative override of the veto will be difficult to achieve, requiring a supermajority vote in both houses. Action must first be taken by the House, which has 30 days to decide whether it will attempt any overrides. If the House overrides, the Senate would then have the option to concur with those overrides within another 30 days. Advocacy efforts are being coordinated by members of Kansas Citizens for the Arts.

Governor Brownback has created a new nonprofit, the Kansas Arts Foundation, which he intends to designate as the recipient of funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Whether such a transfer is legally possible—and whether the new entity can even meet the NEA's eligibility requirements for Partnership Agreement funding—is unclear.

NASAA's Position
NASAA has issued an unequivocal statement about the veto (attached). We already are working with the national media to spread the word that this was an extreme action, poor public policy and must not set a precedent for other states. The "savings" justifications used by the governor do not reflect the real mathematics of what the state gains through the Kansas Arts Commission. The real poverty expressed in the governor's action is not of the pocketbook; it is of understanding and appreciating the value of the state's cultural life. This was a targeted, selective and shortsighted attack. It makes Kansas the only state in the nation without a functioning state arts agency—a loss to the people of Kansas and to our NASAA community.

NASAA will keep you apprised via e-mail and the NASAA website of developments as this situation unfolds.
Katz's opening statement:

Today more than ever, states that want to be competitive need a policy agenda that supports and nurtures the creativity and economic productivity of their citizens. With his veto of funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, Governor Sam Brownback has now declared his opinion that Kansas is too poor for that. The real poverty expressed in this action is not of the pocketbook; state arts agencies yield excellent return on investment in jobs and tax revenues.
Oklahomans for the Arts will be very active over the next three months developing our Board of Directors and further launching our intentions to provide robust support for public arts funding in Oklahoma.