TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas legislators could be headed toward another confrontation with Gov. Sam Brownback over arts funding.
House and Senate negotiators agreed Friday on a bill that would create a new Creative Industries Commission to oversee state efforts to promote the arts. The measure would merge the existing Arts Commission with the Film Services Commission, something Brownback had proposed.
But the Republican governor recommended that the GOP-controlled Legislature give the new commission $200,000 for the fiscal year that begins July 1, an amount arts advocates saw as inadequate. Before lawmakers adjourned Friday for their annual spring break, they had settled on giving the new commission $700,000 — more than three times as much as Brownback recommended.
Brownback has argued that arts programs should rely more heavily on private funds, and last year, he vetoed the entire budget of the Arts Commission, making Kansas the only state to eliminate its arts funding. His decision generated national criticism and cost the state $1.3 million in funding from the federal government and a regional arts alliance.
"There's been a lot of interest around the state in trying to make sure that Kansas is not the only state without an arts program," said Senate President Steve Morris, a Hugoton Republican.
The negotiators' version of the bill setting up the new commission is likely to come up for a vote in the House and Senate after lawmakers return April 25 to wrap up their annual session. The fate of arts funding remained uncertain because legislators hadn't resolved other issues surrounding the $14.1 billion state budget for the next fiscal year.
The governor hasn't backed away from his position on arts programs and says state tax dollars should be used for core government functions instead, Brownback spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said. Brownback has the power to veto individual budget items, which he used last year on the Arts Commission's appropriation.
Asked Friday about arts funding, the governor told reporters that he's hopeful legislators will set up the new commission, but wouldn't say whether he'd accept the additional $500,000 in funding that lawmakers are considering.
"It just needs to be a responsible budget level," he said.
The Senate pushed for the additional funding, as well as three additional staffers for the new commission. The House did not include either in its version of the proposed budget.
Negotiators for the two chambers agreed Friday that the new Creative Industries Commission would have 11 members, five appointed by the governor and six, by legislative leaders. The Arts Commission now has 12 members, all appointed by the governor.
Last year, Brownback vetoed not only $689,000 in funds for the Arts Commission, but also a provision allowing it to keep its small staff.
Sarah Carkhuff Fizell, a spokeswoman for Kansas Citizens for the Arts, said arts advocates hope the new jobs will allow the Creative Industries Commission to draft a plan to regain federal funding by mid-2013.
Fizell said advocates remain concerned about a potential veto of the new commission's funding but are hopeful that Brownback won't eliminate the money, noting that "he decided to restart the conversation."
The bill creating the Creative Industries Commission is Senate Sub for HB 2454.
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org