VIDEO: Kansas Arts Commission, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants survive for now

Rebecca Zepick / State of the State KS

In a 24-13 vote, Kansas senators supported a resolution Wednesday that would keep the Kansas Arts Commission in place. Gov. Brownback proposed closing it and turning it into a non-profit organization under the Kansas Historical Society.

Supporters say they are relieved for the vote but are worried the Governor will veto any funding for the organization next year.

Senator Roger Reitz (R) said, “The Governor has let it be known, through his staff, not to me directly, with a rather steely glint in their eyes, that if this thing passes, we’ll see to it that this thing goes down.”

A spokesperson for Gov. Brownback said that the Governor hasn’t made a final decision on whether to fund the arts commission but is looking at every way to save tax dollars.

“He will continue to look for way to streamline state government, restructure it and ultimately save tax payers money,” said Sherriene Jones-Sontag, the communications director for Gov. Brownback.

Supporters of the arts will have to watch the budget negotiations for fiscal year 2012 to see whether they will have the money to support the arts.

In other Statehouse news, a bill that would remove in-state tuition for illegal immigrants received a final hearing Wednesday before being rejected by a Senate committee.

The current law allows illegal aliens to pay the lower tuition for colleges and universities if the have attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and are actively trying to become U.S. citizens.

Supporters of the bill say the state needs every dollar it can find during this budget shortfall.

State Representative Caryn Tyson (R), said, “Kansas is strapped for funds. In fact, we are so strapped, we are

considering cutting benefits and employees.”

But opponents of the bill say children of illegal immigrants had no choice in in coming to the U.S. illegally and deserve a chance at an education if they have the grades to be accepted.

Andrea Pardo-Spalding, a former illegal immigrant and student who used in-state tuition to go to university, said

“We really want to meet with the laws and my parents, they work hard, and they only came for the reason we had no future back where we were at.”

In-state tuition for illegal immigrants was granted in 2004 under former Governor Kathleen Sebelius.

Finally, Democratic leaders called a press conference Wednesday where they said the law doesn’t allow Governor Brownback to make the full $56.5 million in cuts he announced last Friday.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and Democratic House Leader Paul Davis said the Governor could only make seven million dollars in allotments with out separate legislation approved by the House and Senate and calledBrownback’s claims to have balanced the budget misleading.

Hensley said, “So essentially what I think the Governor has done is hijack the budget process. He’s taken an inappropriate step, an unprecedented step. “

A spokesperson for Gov. Brownback responded, “The Governor’s allotments are an honest balancing of this year’s known budget costs. He clearly indicated on Friday that Legislative action was required before he would be able transfer the funding from the Department of Education to cover the increased costs of human and health services.”

If the additional legislation is passed, the Governor’s proposed allotments have 30 days before they go into effect.