Thursday, September 20, 2007

So, Governor, what have you got?

Haven't the Assembly Republicans put the ball into the Democrats' court by passing a partial funding bill that essentially accepts the Governor's proposals for education funding and aid to local governments? Whether or not it is ideal to pass just part of the budget now, it seems to me that the gambit does make clear that the next move needs to come from the Democrats. On what are they willing to compromise in order to complete the budget?

At this point, conventional negotiation practice would have the Republicans do nothing. Most people are very loathe to negotiate against themselves and the dynamics of the process suggest that the Dems must now move before the GOP does.

Of course, the Dems are angry because the GOP has put this challenge to them in a public way. By making a huge concession, the Republicans have effectively made it impossible for the Dems to hold out past September 28 and blame the resulting local tax increases on the Republicans.

Smart money would say that they throw Healthy Wisconsin over the side. Doyle has said that he won't sign it anyway and, once again outflanking the Ds, Huebsch has said he'll guarantee a hearing on the proposal in the future (a hearing on that mess should be the last thing the Democrats want).

Of course, that won't get a budget done and, if it doesn't happen in time to avoid local tax increase, the Dems are pretty much dead in the water if they plan to blame the hike on the Republicans. Passing a budget in series is not ideal (no one says it is) but the voters are likely to think that it's better than $600 million in property taxes. The tax hike is the Wisconsin equivalent of a "government shutdown" and the Republicans have stolen the issue.

The GOP move was politically astute and it cannot, as Doyle has tried to do, be dismissed as theatrics. It may have been calculated to embarass the Dems for their intransigence but it also involved real - and substantial - concessions.

Well played - as both politics and policy.

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