Proposed bill would create tax checkoff for arts in Kansas

01/18/2012 5:00 AM

01/18/2012 11:26 AM

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) – Kansas taxpayers would be able to make a donation to support the arts while they are filling out their tax returns under a bill to create a Kansas Arts Commission Checkoff Fund.

The proposal, which is sponsored by 40 Republicans in the Kansas House, coincides with Gov. Sam Brownback’s efforts to encourage private funding of the arts so state money can be used on core functions, such as public schools, social services and public safety.

Last year, Brownback vetoed the Kansas Arts Commission’s entire $689,000 budget, making Kansas the first state in the nation to eliminate arts funding. His budget for the coming fiscal year proposes $200,000 in state funding for a new Kansas Creative Industries Commission.

The proposed checkoff fund would allow donations of $1, $5, $10, or any other amount specified by the donor, with all the money to be used by the arts commission.

Henry Schwaller, a member of the Kansas Arts Commission who has criticized Brownback’s approach, said the checkoff fund would be welcome but he doesn’t expect it to raise a substantial amount of money.

“My concern is it’s not an adequate funding source for a state agency,” said Schwaller, who added that people might be reluctant to donate if they don’t know how the money will be used.

“There will have to be some clarification,” he said.

House Speaker Mike O’Neal, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the checkoff idea was approved by the Department of Revenue and the governor’s office. No estimate is available yet on the possible economic impact.

Brownback’s veto of arts funding last year drew national attention and cost Kansas another $1.3 million in funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and a regional arts alliance.

The advantage of the proposed fund is that the money raised should qualify as supplemental state funding to earn federal matching funds, O’Neal said.

“It is a contribution I would make and I’m sure many others would as well,” O’Neal wrote in an email to the Hutchinson News.

Taxpayers already can choose to donate to checkoff funds that support wildlife programs and conservation, Meals on Wheels, breast cancer research and a military emergency relief program.

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