Missouri Governor Includes Arts in State Budget, Despite Kansas City Symphony's Lawsuit

Classic Arts News   Missouri Governor Includes Arts in State Budget, Despite Kansas City Symphony's Lawsuit
Missouri arts advocates had good news last week following Governor Matt Blunt's decision to include money for the arts in his annual budget recommendation.

The Kansas City Star reports that Blunt recommended $7.8 million for the Missouri Cultural Trust, the endowment for the Missouri Arts Council — a match of $3.3 million transferred to the trust in the previous budget plus an increase of $4.5 million. Blunt also recommended $500,000 for the arts council itself.

Arts advocates were worried that the governor might recommend no money for arts institutions at all, out of anger over a lawsuit filed in late 2006 by the Kansas City Symphony against the state. The orchestra alleges that the Missouri legislature has underfinanced the Cultural Trust by $83 million of money from a tax designated by law to fund the Trust. As one of the biggest arts organizations in the state, the KCSO should be a major beneficiary of the fund, according to an earlier article in the Star. The orchestra has an overall budget of about $10.5 million and reportedly received just $60,000 from the state last year.

The lawsuit was filed just as construction began on the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which will be home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet; the complex, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, is expected to open in fall 2009. The lawsuit is reportedly unrelated to the gap in the center's funding, about 80% of which has been raised.

The Symphony's action was unpopular among other institutions, however, and it was asked to withdraw the lawsuit by cultural groups including Missouri Citizens for the Arts, a nonprofit lobbying group, who publicly denounced the suit, according to the Star.

The funding suggested by the governor is by no means guaranteed; his budget still has to be approved by the Missouri House and Senate.

But Janette Lohman, president of the Missouri Citizens for the Arts, told the paper, "The governor took the high road, and we love him for it. And we hope the General Assembly will follow in kind ... I think we still have a battle on our hands with the legislature, but this is definitely a step in the right direction."

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