Arts Commission Among Eight State Agencies On The Chopping Block

By: Stephanie Diffin Email
By: Stephanie Diffin Email

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January 13, 2011

The Orpheum Theatre opened in Wichita in 1922. When it opened, it was the first theater of its kind.

"You don't forget the past, you get to relive the past by coming down here," said Orpheum Visitor Ross Cole.

Now, the Orpheum relies heavily on grants and donations. But those grants could soon disappear under Governor Sam Brownback's proposed budget.

"Well I'm not of course for that, and I wish they would find other ways or other places to cut," said Cole.

The Governor is proposing to eliminate the Kansas Arts Commission, which helps fund organizations like the Orpheum.

"I was quite surprised that they would consider eliminating the Kansas Arts Commission. It's a very important government agency to us and to the state," said Orpheum Interim President Jennifer Wright.

But Governor Brownback says the arts are not in government's core functions, which he says, are all the state can afford in this economy.

"If it's not in the core function, we need to look into moving it out of government. And this is an example where we really have to do that," said Brownback.

So, in addition to eliminating the Kansas Arts Commision, Brownback is also proposing to eliminate the state's Parole Board, Conservation Commission, Animal Health Department, the research organization Kansas, Inc., the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC), Human Rights Commission, and Health Policy Agency. Altogether, the proposal includes eliminating eight state agencies total.

"We're broke, money-wise. We're in a big hole, and you've got to just do everything you can to try to stretch the dollar," said Brownback.

But those who love the Orpheum Theatre say the cuts should not start there.

"For Wichita, the Orpheum is a cultural jewel, and there is nothing else like it in this city," said Wright.

Non-profit arts supporters also say the industry makes up about $150 million of the state's economy, employing around 4,000 people.

In addition to the Arts Commission, the Governor's proposing to cut all funding to public broadcasting, which would mean about $250,000 or 12% of the budget for public radio station KPTS.

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