The Garden City Telegram

Arts aid — State should weigh value of investment in the arts

Citizens have cause to show support for the arts, and more so in a state where such endeavors have been threatened.

In 2011, Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the Kansas Arts Commission's entire $689,000 budget. The ill-advised decision to make Kansas the first state in the nation to abolish arts funding promised to close community theater productions, art shows and other such activities — along with eliminating arts-related jobs — and stood to cost Kansas significant financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The move also promised to exact unnecessary pain in rural parts of Kansas, which already have fewer arts options and find it tougher than big cities to raise funds for arts-related projects.

While backlash from angry Kansans eventually led Brownback to recommend restoring $700,000 in funding the following fiscal year after his veto of the KAC budget, the governor still would prefer to see the arts rely solely on private contributions.

Strategies to accomplish as much include a Kansas Arts license plate for sale, and a way for Kansans to support the arts via their tax returns in a way similar to the Chickadee Checkoff that benefits wildlife programs and conservation.

Through the Arts Checkoff, taxpayers in Kansas may donate a portion of their state income tax refund to the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission (KCAIC).

The question, however, is how effective that may be in benefiting the arts, especially as early reports showed fewer Kansans receiving refunds this year, and more taxpayers sending payments to the state in the wake of drastic tax-code changes sought by the governor.

All arts support — public and private — is welcome and needed. While the Arts Checkoff and other similar strategies may help, they're unlikely to generate the kind of funds needed to preserve small-town arts in particular in Kansas.

State lawmakers should acknowledge how the arts enhance quality of life, and serve as a draw for visitors and anyone considering Kansas as a home.

Rural areas don't need setbacks that make them less of a destination. Consider erased state funding for the arts one such step backward.