In Kansas, losing artists translates to losing money

Laura Zabel, Executive Director of Springboard for the Arts, knows very well just how important the arts are to a state’s economy. And that’s not just because it’s her job.

Zabel grew up in Kansas, but upon graduation from college moved to Minnesota where there are more opportunities for artists. Zabel herself has proven to be a great asset to the Minnesota arts scene.

This past Saturday, the odds became even worse for Kansas artists; Governor Sam Brownback line-item vetoed funding for the Kansas Arts Commission (totalling $689,000), thereby making Kansas the first state without an arts agency.

Brownback justified the move by saying “In difficult fiscal times such as these, the state must prioritize how to spend its limited resources and focus its attention on providing core services.”

For Zabel, the math just didn’t add up. Today on minnesotaplaylist.com she’s published an open letter to Governor Brownback, showing how her own decision to leave Kansas has translated to a financial loss for the state.

There’s a financial consequence: In the last 13 years, I’ve paid approximately $22,000 in state income taxes and $15,000 in state sales tax. I bought a car, a house, had a wedding – all in Minnesota. That money could have gone to the Sunflower State instead of the Gopher State.

Beyond that, since I moved to Minnesota, my entire family has moved here, too. They moved here, in part, because they also care about the arts. None of them work directly in the arts, but they see cultural opportunity as a necessary part of a community they want to live in. So, three adult children who grew up in Kansas, took advantage of its public education and other services and then chose to pay their taxes, make their livelihood, volunteer, vote and serve in another state. Plus, two retired parents who made their whole careers in Kansas, who then chose to spend their retirement years and income in another state.

Just for the 5 members of my immediate family who have relocated to Minnesota, I estimate that Kansas has given up about $100,000 in state and sales tax income so far (not to mention the numerous other ways that we contribute to the local economy.) By that calculation, your veto of the Arts Commission budget only has to convince a handful of young, energetic college graduates that they’d be better off somewhere else for Kansas to be worse off financially because of this decision.

Zabel says in her 13 years in Minnesota, not one single person has questioned her decision to leave her home state; it was obvious to everyone that it was the right choice. And isn’t that kind of sad for Kansas?

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