Editorial: Beyond pomp and platitudes

It is time for the Kansas governor to get specific about how he hopes to fix the state’s problems.

It seems everyone should be pleased that new Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer pledged during his inauguration speech Wednesday to “demand transparency” and “embrace accountability.” For good measure, he also promised honesty and “to do the right thing even when nobody is looking.”

Again, this should be pleasing to all involved, but isn’t it also sad? Every politician should ponder why any government leader should have to take the time to promise to be honest, transparent and accountable. None of these should ever be pledges. They should always be bare minimum requirements for our public servants.

But perhaps such pledges are a necessity because too often the public does expect to be lied to by its leaders. Distrust of government is rampant, and in some corners the idea of a government is despised. It has reached dangerous levels. Our adversaries have learned how to use this distrust and anger against us. For the future of democracy, Americans have to figure out how to be less partisan with one another and how to trust their government more.

Government, of course, must earn the trust. That brings us to Kansas and our new governor.

It is hard to trust a government that puts one of its largest responsibilities — the public school system — on the edge of a shutdown year after year. Perhaps one of the more significant statements made by Colyer on Wednesday was: “I will not be responsible for shutting down Kansas government or our schools. This is not Washington.”

It is hard to know what Gov. Colyer means, though. Is he pinning all his hopes on a constitutional amendment to change how schools are required to be funded? Is he willing to increase taxes to fund schools? If not, does he have a specific list of services he’s willing to cut to provide the education dollars required by the Supreme Court?

Wednesday really provided no answers. It was all pomp and platitudes. What Kansans really need is a plan. Even better would be leadership. It is clear that a lot of relationships between the executive and legislative branches need rebuilt. Hopefully Colyer already has begun to mend those fences.

However, Colyer doesn’t have the luxury of time to shake a lot of hands and slap a lot of backs. The legislative session has gotten off to a slow start, and he needs to use his position to articulate a strategy for the state to move forward. He is scheduled to give a joint speech to the Kansas House and Senate on Wednesday. It should be full of specifics on school finance, tax policy, funding for prisons and much more.

During his inauguration speech, Colyer promised “a new day in Kansas.” That day should begin with a governor who is intent on being a leader rather than an ideologue, and who will work to fix Kansas’ problems regardless of political favor.

That indeed would be a new day to circle on the Kansas calendar.