We Are All Gonna Die!
What brought all this on is that the Republicans in the state legislature had the nerve to propose their own budget rather than simply accepting the one offered by the Governor as a jumping off point. You may recall from last week that the real leverage a minority party has under the rules of our state constitution is in accepting the initial stabilization budget. It requires a super-majority to pass. Once it is passed, it can be amended by simple majority. The Democrats wanted them to give approval to a shell bill that they can fill in the details on later. The Republicans decided they were not ready to do that.
You can rest assured than neither budget reduces the spending of our state government. The Republican plan spends 21 million dollars less than Gov. Beebe’s proposed plan, but both are higher than current levels. In addition, it is plain as day that this state is going to face a massive shortfall in Medicaid funding in two years. We will probably need $200 million dollars if we are going to maintain that program’s benefits. That’s because medical costs are growing and the number of poor using the services are growing.
With a predictable need of $200 million in two years, one would think that the adults would propose a $100 million reduction in spending this year and an equal reduction in spending next year. Instead, one side is talking about increasing spending a great deal and the other says that we should spend $21 million dollars less. Even if revenues met expectations and the Governor’s budget was fully funded in taxes, the reductions proposed by the Republicans are barely over one fifth the amount needed to stave off an "emergency" tax increase.
That’s where all this is heading. In a year or two they will say that no one could have seen this increase in Medicaid outlays coming, and that if we don’t agree to an immediate tax increase then poor children will die in the streets. There will be no time to talk about it, by golly, it’s an emergency. The pattern repeats itself. Big spending politicians set us up for another tax increase by hiding behind sick children instead of altering fiscal course while there is still time.
Why even the proposed $21 million reduction in the increase is being met with predictions of doom. The Republican plan proposed a 3% reduction in a category called "miscellaneous" government programs which would amount to around $230,000. There are a lot of places Beebe could cut within that category. What he is doing is pretending he has to cut it all out of law enforcement. Then intermediaries like Baxter County Sheriff Tom Montgomery chat up how "devastating" these cuts will be to police protection. Montgomery is a Republican so the problem is bipartisan.
The truth is not one dollar has to be cut from police under the proposed plan. Three percent had to be cut somewhere, and Beebe just decided to float the idea that it would all be taken from police in order to scare people.
That’s the way politicians do when faced with the prospect of cuts. They never say, "If I don’t get more money I will have to lay off my idiot cousin from Parks and Recreation." They always say that the police force will have to go, along with the fire department. Remember, if they can’t spend more money every year, then we are all gonna die!