Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer delivers a speech after his swearing in on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, becoming the 47th governor of Kansas. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer delivers a speech after his swearing in on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, becoming the 47th governor of Kansas. (Bo Rader/Wichita Eagle/TNS)

Faced with a $600 million school funding question mark and divided Legislature, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer was sworn in as Kansas' 47th governor Wednesday afternoon after the departure of former Gov. Sam Brownback, who accepted a position as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom under the Trump administration. 

Colyer had promised a "more open and approachable" administration when Brownback was first nominated for the ambassadorship last year and during his inaugural address Wednesday he said his administration will focus on "service to others, honesty and transparency."

Colyer is the state's longest-serving lieutenant governor and a surgeon who does both plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery. Throughout his tenure he has given up much of his practice but has continued to practice medicine, stating during his address that he will continue to see patients for "a few hours a week" as governor. As lieutenant governor Colyer was instrumental in the initiative to privatize the state Medicaid system now called KanCare. 

He said his schedule would look "a lot more like a surgeon's than a politician's" and warned his staff it could lead to 80- or 100-hour work weeks. In addition to the school funding question, serious reforms needed in the state foster care system and a dearth of highway funding due to diverting those funds into other programs because of revenue shortfalls, Colyer is one of many Republicans seeking the 2018 Republican nomination to be the next governor.

So far, Colyer has not offered specifics on his plans as governor. He said he would not be responsible for shutting down the Kansas government or schools and told reporters after his speech that the $600 million proposal for increased funding was "one that I could handle, depending on where the budget is." Some conservative lawmakers, such as Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Kansas City), want Colyer to support their initiative to rewrite the Kansas constitution to limit the Kansas Supreme Court's power over school funding issues. Denning's main goal, according to statements made to reporter's Wednesday, is settling the school litigation one way or another. Whether it was through the constitutional change or by settling with the school districts. 

While many opponents are trying to paint Colyer as an extension of the Brownback administration, many lawmakers are also hopeful that he is serious about improving relationships between the administration and the Legislature and that he will listen more to the Legislature than Brownback did. Gov. Colyer will be in Independence Friday from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. at Big Cheese Pizza, 103 W. Main St.