My pick in the WisPolitcs budget bingo has long passed, so I got nothing on the line here when I say this: My Democratic State Senators, it's time to drop Healthy Wisconsin.
There's a lot that I like about Healthy Wisconsin. It gets close to many of the things I see as necessary to real health care reform and it sounds a lot like the health care reform package I proposed a couple years back. But it was never going to pass this way. You know it, I know it, Governor Doyle knows it.
But now you have the perfect opportunity to do a couple of things. One, get the budget done--that's the most important thing. There are hundreds of municipal and schools employees all over the state losing sleep over this. There are dozens of bills tied up in the legislature yet because the budget isn't done. Forty-nine other states are using us as the Bad Example. It is time to wrap things up, people.
Two, this is a chance to score some points. I know, I know, this isn't supposed to be about political points. This is about the Willothepeople. Fine, whatever (tell that to Mark Rahmlow). Just call it a Happy Accident, a lucky side benefit of tying up the budget process now. The Republicans have convinced (some of) your brothers and sisters in the Assembly to pass a piecemeal budget. This is not acceptable, as Seth explains:
So unless the GOP has also announced a willingness to bend on it's "no tax-increase" policy and strict funding cap, it means that the extra funding is going to need to come out of somewhere else; yet, "somewhere else" is nowhere to be seen.In the process of getting to the pieces, though, the Republicans have abandoned some of the more significant abominations of their unserious show budget, particularly in the area of K-12 education. It's time to lose the show part of your budget, too.
In other words, while the GOP may be mostly agreeing to the Dem proposal on K-12 funding--as Speaker Huebsch has stressed for the media in recent days--unless they're also bending on their strict stances on overall funding, it just means they're going to agree to even less down the line.
And therein lies the difficulty with piecemeal budgets, which is why state budgets--at least in Wisconsin--simply don't get passed that way.
All you have to say is, fine--now meet us where we are. Give us a complete budget. I bet you Jim Kreuser and Co. could be easily convinced to raise enough hell to get the Republicans back in for a Healthy Wisconsin-less budget. Take what the Assembly already passed, add the remaining Senate or JFC pages, and you have a real, workable, complete budget that Jim Doyle can sign--with the BadgerCare expansion, the cigarette tax, the child care provisions, the Department of Children and Families, and so on.
Two things could happen: One, the Assembly relents right away and passes a complete budget and the Democratic Senate looks magnanimous in victory ("It was important to hold out for a complete budget . . . We're glad the Republicans finally saw fit to serve the people, not the special interests . . . We are happy to see the Republicans agreeing with us about the level of school funding . . ." and so on). In other words, they blinked first, and you can capitalize on it.
Or, two, the Assembly refuses anyway, and the Republicans again look like obstructionists. Doyle on one side ("I'd really like to have a budget to sign") and the Senate on the other ("We set aside our controversial plan to do what's best for the people"), and the Republicans will be the monkeys in the middle. Any further hold-up will seem petty and will serve only to give ammunition to our side for November, 2008.
But it can't happen until, in a big, noticeable way, Democrats drop Healthy Wisconsin. Call a press conference, promise to make it a top priority in the spring, remind people how much health care is sucking out of the pockets of workers and the coffers of business . . . However you do it, just do it.
The aforementioned Seth suggested exactly this several weeks back. It was too early at the time, but Seth makes a good point when he says,
The turn from restless to impatient is clearly coming in the media coverage of the budget, and just as it's in the best interest of the state to get something accomplished, it's in the best interest of the Dems to be ahead of the curve rather than being pulled under it.That curve is moving fast, and now is the time. Get this done, claim the win, and get back to work passing Healthy Wisconsin as a stand-alone piece. Also, campaign finance reform, please. Oh, and K-12 funding reform. Some pro-real people tax reform would be sweet, too. Maybe some pie. And a pony. Have we talked lately about light rail?