TOPEKA, Kan (KSNT) – Rumors are circulating the Kansas Statehouse about whether Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is in talks with Pres. Donald Trump about becoming the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Food and Agriculture based in Rome. During a press conference Thursday morning, Brownback said he’s focused on Kansas.
“We got to get the budget balanced here. We got to get a new school finance formula written. We’re under a court order. We’re in the remedial phase of that. I’ve been meeting with legislators about it and we will get those things done,” said Brownback.
During the press conference, Brownback declined to comment about the position or whether one had been offered.
At a Republican lunch Thursday afternoon, executive director of the Kansas Republican Party Clay Barker told attendees that he hasn’t been able to confirm the reports. He said he’s spoke to the governor’s office and the Trump administration; however, he said it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for the governor.
“He’s had a lot of experience with agriculture and foreign affairs and that’s what this position would be,” said Barker.
If Brownback were to depart, it would come at a time when lawmakers are facing a variety of hurdles. The state of Kansas is currently looking at a budget shortfall of over $1 billion through June 2019.
“The legislature’s pretty much been left on their own to deal with the problems… the taxes, the budget, school finance,” said Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka).
In February, the Kansas Legislature attempted to solve part of the state’s revenue problems by raising taxes. The bill also removed key parts of Brownback’s 2012 tax plan, including a tax loophole for farmers and small business owners; however, the governor was able to veto the measure.
If Brownback left, Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Colyer (R-Kansas) would step in as governor until the 2018, which some lawmakers say may be a good thing for the legislature.
“I think that it might open up some more possibilities for us to pass much needed tax reform to balance our budget and to make sure we’re in compliance with our constitution regarding school funding,” said Rep. Stephanie Clayton (R-Overland Park).
If the governor does take the ambassadorship, lawmakers would most likely have to wait to see his departure. Brownback would need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate which could last through the 2017 session.