Kansas First State to Lose Its State Arts Commission - Governor Vetoes Funding

May 30, 2011

Update, July 7, 2011: Americans for the Arts has called for the National Endowment for the Arts to not provide Kansas with its federal funding allocation since the state is not providing any funds. Read more.

Governor Sam Brownbeck of Kansas has vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission, the agency which he had previously eliminated via executive order but to which the Kansas state legislature had restored $689,000 in appropriations. While the agency still exists in theory, it has no staff and no state budget allocation, and quite likely will lose its federal matching funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.  This would make Kansas the only state in the nation without a state arts council.

Kansas Citizens for the Arts has been leading the charge to save the agency, generating over 5,000 letters and emails from Kansans urging that the agency be maintained.

Arts leaders weigh in below. Additional reaction is available here, including some terrific writing as compiled by Ian David Moss of Createquity.

From Robert Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts

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.  

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.

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.

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.

From Jonathan Katz, CEO of National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
A False Economy: Arts Vetoed in Kansas




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.

Proponents of government efficiency should be deeply disturbed by Governor Brownback’s decision. Elected officials are obligated to ask, “What are the citizens of my state getting in return for this investment of public dollars?” The answer in Kansas is “Plenty.” The Kansas Arts Commission:


  • fostered an arts and cultural sector supporting more than 4,000 jobs and generating more than $15 million annually in state and local government revenues;
  • brought home $5.9 million in federal dollars to support arts activities for all Kansans over the past 10 years;
  • engaged 300,000 students in arts education programs in and out of school last year;
  • provided important social and creative outlets for seniors, persons with disabilities, children and underserved populations.

A $689,000 appropriation to the Kansas Arts Commission would have comprised 0.005% of the total state budget, one half of 1/100 of one percent. Governor Brownback’s veto won’t make even a modest dent in the state’s budget gap. It will, however, diminish the state’s ability to leverage public and private investment, compete in the creative sector, improve education, and make Kansas a more rewarding place to live, work, visit and raise a family.

Rather than achieving any savings, this veto creates a net loss. Without the Kansas Arts Commission, the state’s eligibility to secure its designated share of National Endowment for the Arts funds is in jeopardy. Those dollars can be allocated elsewhere, leaving Kansas taxpayers to pay for the arts in other states. Also lost through this veto is the state’s power to leverage private and public investment. Last year the Kansas Arts Commission awarded $1.4 million in grants, which was matched by $60.7 million in local and private dollars.

Kansas taxpayers want the kinds of communities that the arts create. Thoughtful decision makers see the arts as creative skills, as jobs, as industries—not as a frill. This is why Kansas citizens spoke out against the governor’s initial attempts to dismantle the Kansas Arts Commission, and why the legislature recommended funding for the agency. The veto of the entire Kansas Arts Commission budget was selective in its focus and extreme in its magnitude. Other states—wisely—are maintaining a public investment in the arts. The Kansas Arts Commission’s 45-year legacy of service to families and communities—a legacy which received support from Republican and Democratic governors alike—may now be denied to future generations.

The citizens of Kansas deserve better.

Image: Governor Sam Brownbeck of Kansas

Tags: Kansas Arts Commission, Arts Advocacy

Sub Categories

ADVOCACY: NEA / Public Funding for the Arts