Democrats believe that the play is that [Appropriations Chair Warren] Chisum will bring a bill to the floor with the $5 billion unallocated, leaving the maximum maneuvering room in conference committee. No doubt there will be a Calendars committee rule putting the money beyond members' reach with floor amendments. Then, in conference, the budget writers can put the money anywhere they want--and future property tax reductions is very likely to get a bundle.
The advantage to the leadership of leaving the money unspent is considerable. It can be used as a whip or a carrot in the closing weeks of the session to browbeat or entice members into casting their votes as the leadership wishes. We should know the script pretty soon. The Appropriations committee has begun marking up the bill. If HB 1 does not show significant increases over the base bill in areas like health care and education, you'll know that the game plan is to make property tax relief the highest priority. Is it conceivable that this leadership could have a $14 billion surplus and still not make a significant effort to fund the basic needs of this state? It's conceivable to me.
Just so we're clear, this is why the rest of us are pissed off. Yes, we know, you got your shiny new committee chairs and whatnot in return for your support of the current regime. Who knows, you may even be able to do some good from those lofty perches. I hope you can, because Lord knows there's not enough good in the world, let alone in the Lege. But frankly, it won't matter, because it's not possible for you to do enough good to undo all the bad that's going to get done, and already has been done.
It's very simple. They don't care about restoring CHIP. They're not going to fully fund the schools. They took six billion dollars out of general revenue to fund a reckless property tax cut, and I guarantee you they're going to take more to pay for more of those cuts in 2009. There will be a few scraps left over to fight for, but for the third regular session in a row, we're gonna get screwed. That's just how it is.
Now, maybe things wouldn't be that much better with a different Speaker. I'm sure Jim Pitts would have done his darnedest to fund that property tax cut, too. But maybe, just maybe, with someone other than Warren Chisum in charge of the purse strings, we could have rejigged the priorities a little. Let's just say that this is one of those times where the devil you know was unquestionably the greater of the two evils.
So this is why we're mad, and why people are tossing around words like "primary" and "Iscariot". And just think, there's three full months left of this joy. How lovely.
All of us cranky bloggersPosted by Charles Kuffner on February 22, 2007 to Budget ballyhoo