Reading the comments on the Sacramento Bee article announcing the Democrats’ plan to go ahead with their own solution after the Republicans essentially gave them a proposal that was a non-starter, revealed a lot of outrage on the part of the conservatives who seem to post there in high numbers.
I like this plan because it has the potential to be a paradigm changer. It also has the potential to backfire in a big-time way. That is actually another reason to like this plan—Democrats for the first time will own this problem. They are taking control of the process and putting their stamp on it. No more two-thirds cover. Democrats are saying if this fails, it is completely on us.
Let’s face it, cutting $10 billion in education money is worse than bad policy, it was an insult. Had the Republicans at least come up with an alternative that was in the ballpark of acceptability there would be a very different view right now toward the Democrats ploy.
The Republicans have essentially been using this budget crisis to hijack the process. They are making demands for changes to the work day and other issues that have nothing to do with the budget crisis. They came forward with a proposal that was worse than a non-starter.
The Democrats quickly recognized that these negotiations were not going to work. That Republicans were going to dig in. So instead of capitulating like we would expect in the past, the Democrats have found a new way possibly to go forward. If this works, it changes everything.
The Democrats still have to work out a deal with the Governor. For some reason, I expect that to be far easier than it was to work with the legislative Republicans. The Governor seems to actually want a deal.
There is also going to be the question of legality that emerges here. The Democrats are certainly bending the spirit of the law; the question is whether this violates the letter of the law. But even if this does not pan out, it changes the game. It makes the Republicans into the obstructionists and puts them back on the defensive.
The Democrats should and still need to work with the Republicans. There was a good discussion on Tuesday in the Budget Committee. Democrats and Republicans discussed in civil terms their differences, each putting forth their perspective. That was a good start. Now they need to find a way to bridge that gap.
Republicans have argued that raising taxes during a recession, when families and people are facing hard times, is both wrong and will harm the economy. There is little doubt that raising taxes will have a negative impact on the economy. However, the Republicans by the same token have no problem doing some other things that will not help the economy.
First, imagine the $10 billion in education cuts going through. That is $1500 per child in a state that is already at best in the middle of the pack in per pupil spending. If you figure that the average FTE is probably somewhere around $60,000 per year, that works out to just under 17,000 jobs lost.
Yesterday, the Governor, Treasurer, and Controller announced the suspension of public works projects. That is nearly $700 million per month in spending that will be cut. Once again, that translates to job. How many thousands of workers will lose their jobs because of this shutdown?
How are job losses as the result of spending cuts any less harmful to the economy than raising taxes? And it is not simply taking jobs out of the economy which denies money to workers, but it also means the state will have to pay unemployment benefits to these individuals. Plus the fact that all of these projects are not proceeding which will raise costs later. The Pooled Money Investment Board (PMIB) did what needed to be done.
The Republicans however do not seem to understand that taxes are not the only thing that harms the economy. No one wants to have to cut programs. But it has to be done. No one wants to have to raise taxes. But it has to be done. Until the Republicans recognize these simple facts, the Democrats have no other choice than to take the ball away from the Republicans, and try to play by their own new rules.
Will it work? Only time will tell. But for now it is a bold new move by a party that usually lacks the scruples and ingenuity to pull these moves off.