Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Orchestra to Work off Loan Carnahan Makes Deal on $2 Million Debt

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Orchestra to Work off Loan Carnahan Makes Deal on $2 Million Debt

Article excerpt

Legislators from both political parties expressed shock Wednesday at a decision by Gov. Mel Carnahan to let the St. Louis Symphony work off a $2 million state loan by giving free concerts.

"That's just throwing egg in the face of the Legislature," which rejected a similar payback plan two years ago, said Rep. Ken Legan, R-Halfway and the senior House Republican.

Carnahan quietly signed an agreement last month allowing the St. Louis Symphony - and the Kansas City Symphony - to give free concerts instead of repaying their loans.

Including interest, the St. Louis Symphony owes the state $2.2 million, and the Kansas City Symphony owes $1.1 million.

Carnahan's spokesman, Chris Sifford, said Wednesday: "The governor sees this as a way to provide opportunities for people all across the state to experience two fine symphonies and the great music they have to offer."

The Missouri Arts Council will work out details of the free concerts. Guidelines approved by the governor value a St. Louis Symphony concert at $60,000 and a Kansas City concert at $30,000. At that rate, the public would get about 37 free concerts from each orchestra over the next four years. The orchestras also could get credit for school performances.

Carnahan's representatives signed the loan agreement on May 17, four days after the Legislature adjourned and left town. The governor's office issued no announcement. Sifford said the governor hadn't tried to hide anything. "It was my understanding the symphonies were going to announce it, and they did" in little-noticed press releases Friday, Sifford said.

Legan, for one, promised a court fight, contending the governor lacked legal authority to alter the loans. Some Democrats agreed. Carnahan and his staff "stepped way beyond their authority," said Sen. Wayne Goode, D-Normandy. He called the governor's move "rather appalling."

Sifford said the governor was confident the action would withstand a court challenge. But in case of a suit, the agreements call for the orchestras to provide legal representation for the state. Further, the agreements say that if a court throws out the free concert provision, the orchestras would have to come up with the cash to repay the loans. …

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