The ugly political knife fight over the Kansas Arts Commission just got real. In his first months in office, Gov. Sam Brownback went on a government-slashing spree, shuttering and consolidating several agencies and offices. He ordered the commission to be closed and planned for a nonprofit to replace it.
But the state Senate rejected Brownback's move, keeping the Arts Commission open and eligible for all-important federal-grant cash. It probably felt like a slap in Brownback's face, but there didn't appear to be anything he could do about it. Then, with the help of legislative budget delays, Brownback found a creative way to get what he wanted.
See, budget negotiators have squirreled away $689,000 of state money to
get the KAC through the next fiscal year. But the budget hasn't passed
yet, and the governor can Wite-Out the funding with the line-item veto
anyway. In other words, with no funding bill passed and the governor's guillotine waiting, KAC employees
can carpool to the unemployment office.
Secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration, Dennis Taylor,
sent KAC's five employees letters yesterday, letting them know that they are
being terminated and the commission will be closing after all. The Topeka
Capital-Journal quotes Taylor's icy firing notes: "Given
the lack of funding, the agency positions
will be abolished resulting in total agency closure."
The news came as a bit of a surprise to KAC workers, who had assumed that
they were safe. Henry Schwaller, the chairman of KAC's board, told the
Cap-Journal that the government was jumping the gun. "This was a very hasty move that did not have to be done," he
told the paper, adding that the KAC has funding through this fiscal year,
which ends June 30. The employees were told that June 10 will be
their final day.
Well, nice try, Kansas Senate. You did an admirable thing in trying to
save the KAC. Remember this for next time: Nobody -- not even other
Republicans -- puts Brownback in the corner!