Despite overwhelming support from the Missouri Legislature, Gov. Eric Greitens has vetoed state funding for the proposed $96 million Downtown UMKC Conservatory project.
“Today, Governor Eric Greitens vetoed a bill that would have asked Missouri taxpayers to pay for a new building for dancers and art students in Kansas City,” according to a statement released this afternoon by the governor’s office. “Politicians are addicted to spending your money.”
The bill passed the Missouri Senate 28-4 and passed the House 117-39.
“This year, they passed a bill that would put taxpayers on the hook for over $75 million to build and run a conservatory for dancers and art students. I’m vetoing the bill, and I’m ready to fight them on this,” the statement said.
The University of Missouri Board of Curators and System are now seeking alternative funding to match the $48 million already raised from private and public sources in Kansas City. The move comes as Greitens has remained silent on state matching funding that had been approved by the legislature in May.
“This is a strategic investment to support our key goals in academics and scholarship,” University of Missouri President Mun Choi said in a statement.
Choi said that details of the financial plans for the UMKC Downtown Conservatory project will be developed “without reliance on state funding.”
Choi said plans for alternative funding are expected to be presented to the board of curators at its September meeting.
The facility is planned for a site south of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts at 17th and Broadway. It is expected to accommodate 700 students and faculty.
The project is considered a vital addition to the growing cultural downtown Kansas City cultural scene and the Downtown Council spearheaded the assembly of the properties needed to build it.
It later was boosted by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce when the downtown arts campus was named one of its “Big 5 Ideas” in 2011.
Julia Irene Kauffman, who spearheaded the Kauffman Center that opened in 2011, provided a vital funding boost when the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation pledged $20 million to the UMKC downtown conservatory proposal in 2013.
Despite the setback in Jefferson City, UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton said in a statement the decision by the Board of Curators indicates recognition of the importance of the conservatory project.
“UMKC’s Downtown Campus is critical to maintaining and growing the Conservatory’s impact and the ongoing economic and cultural development of Kansas City’s downtown Crossroads District,” Morton said.
Kauffman said she will continue to honor her $20 million pledge while the university seeks alternative ways to fund the project.
“It needs to happen,” she said in a statement. “That’s why I have supported and that’s why I am so grateful to Chancellor Morton and President Choi for taking this bold step to make it a reality. They are providing leadership when we need it most.”
Mayor Sly James also issued a statement, saying “I look forward to helping Dr. Choi and the board of curators make this a reality. I’m eager to cut the ribbon on this facility and I know many Kansas Citians are as well.”
In his veto statement, Greitens did praise the new approach by the university to fund the conservatory.
“Today, the President and the Board of Curators of the University of Missouri System announced that they don’t want any additional taxpayer money to pay for a conservatory.
“Instead, they’ve committed to develop a detailed plan to pay for it by making tough budget decisions and using private funds along with strong leaders in the Kansas City community. That’s how it should be.”