Kansas Arts Commission survives


Yesterday the Kansas Senate voted to overturn an order by Governor Sam Brownback to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission.

The governor had issued an Executive Reorganization Order to implement his goal. Either chamber of the legislature may then vote on a resolution objecting to the ERO. If such a resolution passes either chamber, the ERO is canceled, and that’s what happened. No action by the House of Representatives is needed.

The vote in the Senate was 24 to 13, with three not voting. Wichita-area legislators voting to override the governor and save the KAC include Carolyn McGinn and Jean Schodorf. Voting against the KAC were Steve Abrams, Dick Kelsey, Ty Masterson, and Susan Wagle. Les Donovan did not vote.

Going forward, the KAC has to be funded through appropriations each year just like any other agency or program. While it appears the Senate would be able to pass an appropriations bill with funding for the KAC — it received about $800,000 this year — the House is less likely to pass such an appropriation. In either case, the governor in Kansas has a line-item veto, which he could use on KAC funding.

Politically, the passage of this resolution against the wishes of the governor is a reminder that there was an election in Kansas last year, but not for senators. (There are a handful of new senators due to resignations, but the new members seem largely aligned with the views of the senators they replaced, so the character of the body has not changed in a significant way.) It is commonly thought that voters sent a message last November that they want less government spending, not more. To that end, voters elected a governor that ran on a platform of fiscal conservatism, and many conservative members were elected to the House.

The defeat of the governor’s plan is also a lesson in how entrenched special interest groups can become. Even in this case, where the amount of money is relatively small — some $800,000 from the state that generated another $1,200,000 from other sources — an intense lobbying effort was undertaken to save the KAC. This effort included the use of taxpayer-funded or state-owned resources such as the KAC website and KAC staff time to lobby the legislature for money.


2 responses to “Kansas Arts Commission survives”

  1. A Nony Moose

    As much as I love Governor Brownback’s libertarian streak when it comes to downsizing the State government, his neo-con/theo-con/ socially conservative policies turn my stomach. I love the arts, especially music, but government should have no involvement whatsoever in funding the arts.

  2. Anonymous Mike

    Hi, if the government pays for it, they should be telling the “arts” what art is, and what it is that they want. Which is why I agree that the Government has not part in the arts, or many other places.


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