I’m going to disagree with David Potts @ BSB over this one.  I don’t understand why Strickland is siding with Buddish and the Ohio Black Legislative Caucus over this one.

Here’s the run down:  the Senate GOP has said they’ll given the Democrats the votes needed to freeze income tax rates in return they’re asking that the legislation also implements public contracting reform and sentencing reform as well.

Both of these proposals were in Strickland’s initial budget introduced at the beginning of the year in legislation that was expected to be signed into law in June.  However, both were unceremoniously stripped by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

Unlike the previous Senate GOP offer, I don’t think most objective observers could suggest that these are “poison pills” being presented in bad-faith.  Everyone seems to agree that these changes are needed to resolve a fiscal structural problem in the State and would save $100s millions every year.  Everyone also agrees that the next biannual budget is going to have even more significant problems unless structural changes in state government aren’t implemented.  Changes like sentencing reform and public construction contract reform— which is exactly why Governor Strickland proposed them in his budget.

The only public argument against these things is by Speaker Buddish who professes that he’s willing to consider passing the legislation separately but objects to them being included in the tax freeze legislation because he wants a “clean bill.”

Governor Strickland, today, announced that if the Senate GOP doesn’t pass a clean bill by the end of this month, he’s going to have no choice but slash primary, secondary, and higher education to bring the budget in balance.  He’s trying to play a game of fiscal chicken with the Senate GOP, but I don’t see how Strickland wins this fight.

Strickland now says that the construction policy reform should not be included because they should wait… I dunno because he obviously at one point expected it to be made into law already or else he wouldn’t have included it in his budget.

Let’s call this for what it really is.  Budish’s claims about this being about wanting a clean bill is nonsense.  First, the bill the House passed wasn’t clean.  It included a separate proposal to cut the salaries of State lawmakers in the next General Assembly.  That provision will not help the current budget situation at all (and unlike public construction law reform, the contribution the 5% legislative pay cut to the projected structural deficit of the next budget is negligible.)  It was done entirely to give vulnerable House Democrats some political cover to support the bill while giving campaign fodder to use against incumbent Republicans next year.  Speaker Budish opposes it because the unions that helped elevate him to the Speakership don’t want the construction reform passed.  Why Budish isn’t willing to just public admit that, and why Strickland is playing along with Budish’s B.S. narrative, I simply don’t understand.

If Strickland follows through with this threat, it would be a political disaster… for Governor Strickland.  Unless there is something else the Senate GOP is demanding or a material difference in their version of sentencing and public construction reform that isn’t being reported, the Senate GOP said they were willing to give Strickland the votes necessary to avoid such cuts so long as other budget saving proposals in the Governor’s initial budget was passed by the House, but Strickland opposed passing in December that which he wanted the legislature to already make into law by June?

On the flip side of the coin, it’s equally patently absurd that the best the Senate GOP can offer for these fiscally needed votes is a measly five votes.  What Senate President Harris should do is get his caucus to fully support it with maybe five rebellions and test the Democratic Senate minority to stand lockstep against this.  Chances are it would pass and then Budish would have to keep his Democratic majority from not consenting to the Senate’s version (assuming that the House GOP could be persuaded to give the Senate GOP version more support with these changes than they did with the House.  Not necessarily a likely scenerio) in order to force the matter into a bicameral conference committee that must resolve the issue and pass it by both houses before the end of the year.

The Senate Finance Committee is meeting again today, but nobody has any expectations of what, if anything, will result from this.  If I could make sense of this any better, I would, but I’m thoroughly confused as to why the Governor is allowing what is essentially was his own budgetary proposals (which also needed to be passed to avoid a budgetary crisis) to become a dealbreaker.

So, I’m left here not knowing what to think.  On the one hand, the failure of getting something done could be disastrous for the State, and particular education.  On the other hand, I personally don’t believe that what the Senate GOP is asking in return for the necessary votes to implement the tax freeze is unreasonable, and in fact, makes sense.  Right now the worst I can fault them is that they can only commit five votes to do it.

What am I missing here?

 

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