Perhaps a final day of drama was inevitable.
On Wednesday, most of official Kansas held its breath as the U.S. Senate finally considered the nomination of Gov. Sam Brownback to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
The result? Almost a stalemate. Vice President Mike Pence had to break a 49-49 tie twice before Brownback was confirmed.
We wish soon-to-be former Gov. Brownback well. His new job is important. While we have disagreed with his policy views on almost every occasion, Kansans should not doubt Brownback’s affection for his state or his dedication to its success.
But they also know the governor’s legacy: budget deficits, underfunded public schools, mismanaged Medicaid, wobbly mental health facilities, unsafe prisons, a rocky credit rating and more.
Those problems remain unsolved as Brownback takes his leave. Now, Jeff Colyer — working with the Legislature — must step forward and govern.
There is much to do.
In his last State of the State speech, Brownback called on lawmakers to increase school spending by $600 million over a five-year period. Colyer should use that proposal as a starting point for talks aimed at ending the school funding crisis.
Five years is too long for students to wait. The state Supreme Court is likely to look for signs of a real commitment to fully fund schools, and a three-year phase in should be the target.
That additional spending probably will require more tax increases. The Legislature may resist such a proposal, and Colyer will need to show leadership by prodding lawmakers in the right direction.
He won’t want to do it. But Colyer is running for re-election to the job in November, and a clear demonstration of leadership skills is the best way for him to win voters’ confidence.
There isn’t a lot of room for Colyer to be more conservative on school funding than GOP opponent Kris Kobach. But there is a governing majority in the Legislature of Democrats and Republican moderates who want to fix the school funding problem. Colyer should turn to them.
Once that work is done, the new governor and lawmakers should focus on other important matters. Transparency and openness are essential, and lawmakers are already making good strides to improve both.
Kansas should reimburse innocent people wrongly convicted of crimes. It should reaffirm its commitment to higher education and quality transportation. Foster care must be improved.
Jeff Colyer should be congratulated on becoming governor, at long last. He surely knows there won’t be a lot of time to waste in the days ahead.