Gov. Sam Brownback said he will give the State of the State address and deliver a budget proposal next week, then remain in office until he is confirmed to a diplomatic post.
Brownback had previously said Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was taking the lead in developing the governor’s blueprint for how Kansas should spend billions in tax dollars.
"This budget is Gov. Brownback’s budget. He’s had final say on this," said Colyer spokesman Kendall Marr.
Brownback will give the State of the State on Tuesday, Jan. 9, and release his budget proposal on Jan. 10. The governor’s office said the speech will include Brownback’s response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found school funding inadequate under the state constitution.
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The governor is required to produce a budget, but it had not been clear whose budget it would be and who would give the State of the State.
President Donald Trump nominated Brownback in July to be ambassador at large for international religious freedom. But the U.S. Senate did not act on Brownback’s nomination before the end of its session, and the nomination returned to the White House. President Donald Trump will have to re-nominate him, potentially further delaying the confirmation process by weeks or months. The White House didn’t comment Monday on re-nominations.
Speculation in recent days centered on whether Brownback might resign before the State of the State speech, clearing the way for Colyer. That possibility has now been ruled out.
“Looking forward to another great legislative session. I will remain Governor until confirmed by the US Senate,” Brownback said in a tweet.
Brownback has sent several signals over the past week that he plans to remain in charge. He announced the hiring of a policy director last week and asked his interim commerce secretary to remain in place. Interim secretary Nick Jordan had earlier planned to resign Jan. 5.
That’s a far cry from predictions this fall that Colyer would be the governor by now. In October, a spokeswoman for Colyer dismissed policy questions directed at him, saying he would make announcements during the State of the State speech.
Brownback also allowed Colyer to take on more power than a traditional lieutenant governor. He chose the secretary of the Department for Children and Families and was allowed to lead the budget development.
Marr said Colyer still had significant input in the budget’s development.
"In the process he talked to many people," Marr said of Brownback. "He mentioned the lieutenant governor had a very strong hand in this and that’s really what we expected going in. That was part of our plan."
Brownback and Colyer had faced mounting pressure to show clearly who will be in charge this session. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, had said that Brownback should resign if he wasn’t confirmed by the State of the State address.
Former Democratic Gov. John Carlin said the State of the State speech matters if the administration has an agenda that needs as much public exposure as possible.
"It’s an opportunity to make it clear where you’re headed," Carlin said.
Sen. Dinah Sykes, R-Lenexa, said whoever delivers the speech should commit to remaining in office throughout the session. Uncertainty over who will hold the office has created confusion, she said.
Before the session begins, lawmakers need to know who they will be working with, Sykes said, adding that she’s willing to work with either.
"It does make it difficult because our lieutenant governor has been making some of the big decisions that should have been from the governor, appointments and things like that," Sykes said.
Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, said whoever is giving the State of the State and putting together the budget needs to outline a clear path to the end of the session.
"We have had some pretty seriously rudderless leadership from the executive branch year in and year out," Claeys said.
Brownback continuing in office also makes campaigning for governor more difficult for Colyer. The State of the State would have been a "giant kick start to his campaign," said Bob Beatty, a political scientist at Washburn University.
"This will be a lesson for other governors for years to come that get nominated," Beatty said. "You do not publicly give up power until the second you’ve been confirmed."
Contributing: Hunter Woodall of The Kansas City Star and Anita Kumar of McClatchy DC