Wednesday, February 15, 2012

State Republicans File Rival Budget Plan

House Minority Leader John Burris has filed a budget bill to rival that of Governor Mike Beebe in the just-started fiscal session of the Arkansas legislature.  It's high stakes, and you can expect the establishment media to try and vilify Burris if he messes with their money.  Still, my view is that it is something that is long overdue.   The emergence of Burris has added a lot of energy to the house Republicans as a legitimate loyal opposition to Democratic Governor Mike Beebe.  

Its complicated, but here are the important parts as I understand it:  These budget bills require a supermajority to pass.   The Republicans, if they hang tough, have the ability to block any of them.  What the Democrats want to happen is for the legislature to vote "yes" to a shell bill and let the Governor and his accomplices fill in the blanks later - when supermajorities are not needed and the Democrats can steamroll the Republicans.   I think Burris wants to hold off on passing the Govenor's shell bill until the ledge also passes his version.   Then both sides can flesh their proposals out, and the ledge can then vote on which final product they want.

I don't think the bottom line under the two proposals will be that much different.   I believe if Burris gets his way it is just going to be more like what we have had in Washington.- with the Democrats proposing a budget that increases government by an absurd amount of money and the Republicans countering with a budget which merely increases it by a gigantic amount of money.  Eventually the two sides settle on an increase in government spending somewhere between absurd and gigantic.  At least that was the process before Resident Obama got in and the Democrats ceased offering budgets, which while ridiculous is another story.

If that process seems like there is not enough range in the debate, consider that Arkansas is behind even that level of open debate on budgets.  Burris is attempting to improve things to that level, as low as it might be.  What has been happening in Arkansas is that the Democrats propose a budget, the details of which they will fill in later, and the Republicans vote for it in hopes that if they capitulate quickly then their districts will not be punished too badly.   There has been no Republican budget as an alternative until now.

While I don't expect the bottom line to be much different in the two budgets (please prove me wrong somebody) who gets what money there is promises to be a lot more interesting.     As I alluded previously, the budget can be used to punish legislators who don't tow the line.     Add true give and take to the process of who gets the money that is in the budget (a separate question from how much total money will there be) and you remove the hammer that Beebe and the establishment have been able to wield against any mavericks.

Let me give an example of how Gov. Beebe might act if he wanted to be vindictive and send a message:   His Forestry Commissioner misappropriated federal funds and caused a bit of a crisis recently.   Many firefighters were laid off on an emergency basis.   Two female Republican legislators, Lori Benedict and Donna Hutchinson, found money that was not being used that would solve the problem.  Swell guy that he is,  Beebe runs to the papers and takes the credit for their idea.    The Democrats pull stunts like that all the time and usually the Republicans just grin and bear it for fear that if they complain they will get all of their bills voted down out of spite.   Besides, the Democrat Gazette would not give fair coverage even if they did complain.    This time though, Benedict has had enough and complains to some of us bloggers and Hutchinson amens her.

Now its time for the budget.   Something in the forestry budget has to be cut to until they can pay back the feds for the grant money that was misappropriated.   What part of the state should get their services cut?  Well, you could make the decision on rational grounds like where fires are most likely to happen or where the most valuable trees are.   Or you could make the decision based on petty political payback and cut services for District 7.   That's the district that Hutchinson is in.   In the coming weeks I suggest that we watch the Governor's budget and see if he does indeed attempt this crass maneuver.

I know people like sweeping initiatives, but if you want to be effective, you better follow the money.   This is a key battle that deserves a lot more media coverage and activist attention than I fear that it will get.


Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

House Minority Leader John Burris has filed a budget bill to rival that of Governor Mike Beebe in the just-started fiscal session of the Arkansas legislature. It's high stakes, and you can expect the establishment media to try and vilify Burris if he messes with their money.

7:05 AM, February 15, 2012  
Anonymous Cenderahati perkahwinan said...

What having in the Republican mind is that they are planning to destroy the economy in order to remain elected.

8:18 PM, February 16, 2012  

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