There will be no ceremonial clocking-out with his timecard for Gov. Sam Brownback. But at 3 p.m. Wednesday, Brownback officially resigns and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer ascends to the governorship with a swearing-in ceremony in the Statehouse and he gets to start being the face of Kansas — or hoping he is.
That swearing-in is going to mean a dramatic change in lifestyle for Colyer, who has been a dutiful lieutenant governor. “Dutiful” for a lieutenant governor means don’t speak first, don’t criticize the boss, and don’t stand between the governor and press cameras.
It’s a significant shift, and Colyer has said there will be a “different tone” in the governorship, maybe in the whole state, when he is sworn-in. He’s not saying just days away from his swearing-in what that different tone is going to be, or even whether he liked the tone when Brownback was governor, just that it’s going to change.
But it’s for sure that after Colyer takes the oath and moves across the hall into the big office with its own bathroom, he is going to have to make Kansans aware he’s the governor now, things are different and that there are things he wants to do for Kansans that haven’t been done before.
And he also needs to quickly announce some noticeable — and for his political future — attractive changes in Kansas.
Because after he takes that oath, it’s all about winning the crowded Republican primary election and then the general election to get a term of his own.
Now, while he and Brownback have said they worked together on the budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and next, most Statehouse regulars think Colyer within days of taking the new office will have some amendments to the Brownback/Colyer budget released earlier this month.
Little things, presumably, though Colyer is going to have to quickly do something attractive for the K-12 budget. Brownback said he wants to spend $600 million in five years to increase school funding. That’s a long time and spread out as it was proposed, even lawmakers who like the tone of the proposal don’t know where they’ll get the money for it.
It’s the time for a new governor/candidate must come up with some ideas that are his own and that mark him as leading the state, not just filling out the term.
Those new ideas — “tones?” — are what the crowd at the swearing-in is going to be listening for. Nobody’s looking for massive tax changes, either up or down, with revenues from last year’s income tax increases still uncertain … or when they’ll show up in the state treasury.
There are little things that might appeal to the voting public that he can propose as indicators of the Colyer leadership tone. Whether it’s naming bridges after former state leaders/heroes, or requiring safer helmets for high school football players or knee-length cheerleader skirts, there are relatively cheap initiatives out there.
But at 3 p.m. Wednesday, we start seeing a new Colyer, and his GOP primary opponents are going to be busy discarding whatever he comes up with and labeling him “Brownback 2.0” for campaign purposes. Likely those GOP primary opponents and Democratic candidates for governor can agree on that tactic.
Key is that Colyer is going to have to move quickly to amass a body of work this legislative session that he can call his own and take credit for or find something in the Brownback/Colyer budget that he can say he didn’t really care for and wants credit for changing.
The new tone? We’ll see whether Kansans start humming it or not.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.