However, Tommy's interpretation may be a better rule, because that would imply that the starting player has to pay to be able to stay the starting player and turn order is shuffled somewhat each round.
We made that same assumption as well. i.e. 0 bid = Pass. Taking the first position seemed strong, so letting someone keep it for free because everyone else is hurting doesn't seem right.
But, this may be an area where the runaway leader issue can be addressed. Similar to Power Grid, maybe the turn order in years 2 and 3 should be the inverse of the current monetary situation?