Good luck, Kansas.
Robert Harder has known the past nine governors. But none had to face a budget shortfall of the size likely to await the next Kansas governor.
Other recent governors have had to take office and make immediate cuts to deal with budget problems. But none has had to deal with a budget gap as big as the $600 million to $700 million now forecast.
"Previous candidates have not faced this kind of hole," Harder said. " Those earlier shortfalls pale in comparison. That makes it even more critical for candidates this year to be very upfront in how they're going to deal with the budget issue."
When Harder assesses the Republican and sole Democrat candidates vying for the job, he said he tries to listen carefully to what they are saying or not saying about how they'll solve the budget problem. He said he is disappointed they're not talking more about the issue.
Here's Harder's take on the candidates:
Tim Shallenburger, GOP
"For someone to say we're not going to cut education and not raise taxes is just disingenuous. Eighty percent of the budget is tied up in what I'd call human services. Anyone who says they can maintain education and social services and, by the way, not raise taxes, is making a complete falsehood."
Bob Knight, GOP
"He at least seems open to the possibility the state may need additional taxes if education is to be adequately funded. But I don't get the sense he has an understanding of what the problems are with regards to the budget. I think being mayor of the largest city is an important credential. But I've yet to hear or read anything to indicate that Mayor Knight has a comprehensive understanding of state government. A strong suit is that if he were elected he would come in with less baggage than the other candidates, not having been around the Statehouse the past eight years. His administration in Wichita has been marked, I think, by reaching out and trying to be cooperative with all the various groups."
Dave Kerr, GOP
"Gives us the candidate with the greatest potential for understanding not only the budget, because he was chairman of Ways and Means, but also because of that position, the best understanding of the intricacies of state government."
On the downside: "As chairman of Ways and Means and then president of the Senate he's picked up both friends and enemies and that might represent a problem in terms of working out compromises."
Dan Bloom, GOP
"The lack of understanding the total sweep of government would be his biggest handicap."
Kathleen Sebelius, Democrat
"She certainly has a very distinct advantage in not having a primary opponent, which means she has the advantage of not having to say a lot right now in terms of the major issues. She's indicated what we need to do is a study of state government to see how it can be more efficient. I don't disagree with that. But I don't think by that kind of study you can find $600 million."