Normally, I don’t write much about politics because The Business Monthly is fortunate to be working with the best political reporter in the state in Len Lazarick. It is my philosophy that a newspaper’s responsibility is to report the news and not endorse candidates nor take sides politically. We provide the news and respect our readers to form their own opinions.
With that said, once in a while I think it is acceptable, and perhaps even responsible, to make a few remarks that may be swayed by personal convictions. With the end of this year’s legislative session, I have been so compelled.
My remarks are not “right” or “left” as much as they question our politics and, perhaps, our politicians in general.
What’s in a name? In the case of the “doomsday budget,” quite a bit. It creates the illusion that the budget passed by our state legislators represents the end of the world — or at least the state — as we know it, with dark days ahead and no hope for the future.
In reality, the budget that was passed (or rather, was left to bring back another day) is no such thing. As a matter of fact, the budget is bigger than the previous year’s budget. Even with the proposed $512 million in cuts, next year’s total state budget (fiscal 2013) is still $700 million more than this year’s budget (fiscal 2012).
So, I’m not sure the word “doomsday” is exactly appropriate, unless you use it as a scare tactic. The reality is that the so-called “draconian cuts” of this budget are from the proposed budget presented by the governor, not from a status quo budget.
Does the state need the extra dollars? That certainly is being argued among our legislators, and we know that fight isn’t over; a special session most likely will be called. But the terms “doomsday budget” and “draconian cuts” definitely misrepresent the situation and are perfect examples of using rhetoric to tilt the scales.
The special session probably will be called — perhaps even before you read these pages. Right now, many people and organizations are pleased that their hard work during the session paid off and some of the tax hikes were not passed. But beware, the special session brings everything back on the table.
In fact, items not on the table before can be presented during the session. The fight, one way or the other, is not over.
My concern now reflects on the special session that was held a few years ago. With a special session, there may not be enough time to have sufficient input from the public, so bills could be passed without that very important and essential right of due process. The now-repealed tech tax is a prime example.
The other, and perhaps even more important, element is that the leadership seemed to flex its muscle even more so than during the regular session. As I wrote in a pub note at that time, if the presiding officers — the speakers of the House and Senate — were making so many of the calls, we could save a lot of money by only employing a governor and the two speakers. We don’t have to pay our “representatives” a salary or retirement if they only vote as instructed and along party lines.
I have a lot of respect for our representatives and hope this year is not an instant replay.
Enough Is Enough
During this year’s session, 2,580 bills were introduced. No wonder our legislators couldn’t agree on a budget; it appears they were distracted.
Think about it: 2,580 potential new laws and regulations. And that’s for this year alone. It’s not an unusual year. Whether we’re talking 90 days or 365 days, that’s too many.
There really are two issues here: The first is being distracted by the number of other issues to finalize the budget within the allotted time; and second, the unbelievably high number of potential new bills (or new laws and regulations).
I understand that each legislator has pet projects/constituents that have special requests. And a good number of these proposed bills don’t pass, much less make it out of committee. And still others were small changes to already existing bills. But surely, enough is enough.