In July, Gov. Ernie Fletcher announced that Kentucky ended its fiscal year with a $214 million budget surplus. But the extra cash wonâ€™t send state government on a spending spree â€” $90 million of that sum is allocated to a rainy-day fund, and the government faces a $132 million Medicaid deficit for 2006.
Meanwhile, state agencies and special interest advocates have begun jockeying for state funds in the 2006-2008 budget cycle. Last month the Council on Postsecondary Education recommended that state government increase its budget for higher education by 17.7 percent, to $193.1 million. On Nov. 28, Arts Kentucky, which lobbies for public and government support of the arts, sent an e-mail message to 1,500 people on its mailing list, asking recipients to send a letter to the governorâ€™s office in support of the Kentucky Arts Councilâ€™s request for a $2 million budget increase for the next two-year budget cycle. The council distributes nearly three-quarters of its budget in grants to help arts organizations throughout the state meet operating expenses.
â€œWe donâ€™t see our grant dollars growing, and that has been a concern,â€ says Lori Meadows, KAC executive director.
From 1996 to 2004, KACâ€™s total budget increased only 8.3 percent. Meadows and Arts Kentucky Executive Director Trish Salerno attribute that to the stateâ€™s inability to keep budget increases in line with inflation. From 1996-2004, inflation rose 18.4 percent while state allocations increased 15 percent.
They also say budget growth has lagged because of a diminishing National Endowment for the Artsâ€™ budget, which has reduced the money NEA allocates to states. As the country experienced a culture war from 1996-2004, the NEA portion of the councilâ€™s budget fell from 18.6 percent to 13.5 percent.
Salerno says that if Kentucky Arts doesnâ€™t see the increase when the governor announces his budget to the legislature on Jan. 16, the organization will work to persuade legislators of the need for the increase.