TOPEKA — The governor’s office ended weeks of speculation Tuesday with an announcement Gov. Sam Brownback would give the annual State of the State address next week
Spokeswoman Rachel Whitten also confirmed Brownback would provide the governor’s budget proposal, which will be released the day after the speech. She said Brownback always had planned to deliver the budget if he were still in office.
“The governor was always going to deliver it, and since the governor didn’t get confirmed, that means he’s going to deliver it,” Whitten said.
Brownback was nominated by President Donald Trump in July to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, leaving legislators and officials to wonder whether he would be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before the start of the Kansas Legislature’s 2018 session. That would have put Colyer, a candidate for governor, in position to give the address and lead the state through the session.
Without a vote in 2017, Brownback’s confirmation process stalled, possibly keeping him in office a while longer. Last week, he hired a policy director, and at his request, Interim Commerce Secretary Nick Jordan put off his plan to step down. Whitten said she did not have information on when Brownback’s nomination and confirmation process might begin again.
In his eighth State of the State address, Brownback will respond to the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision that found the Legislature’s school finance plan unconstitutional, according to a press release from his office. Brownback also directed Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to meet with “key advocacy groups to address items included in the budget proposal that will be released the day after the speech.”
Brownback affirmed again on Twitter he would not step aside and clear the way for Colyer until he is confirmed by the Senate. Some legislators, including Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, have called on him to step down.
Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said Friday she was glad to have a seasoned governor in office for the upcoming session to deal with the Supreme Court ruling.
“I’m thankful,” Wagle said. “This is going to be a very, very difficult session because we are going — we have a significant court ruling that we have to deal with, and if he stays here and I have someone who’s seasoned, I think that will be helpful in getting through session.”