Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Assembly Republicans Did Learn Their Lesson

See LATE UPDATE Below (5/24)

Owen from "Boots and Sabers" has created a bit of a stir in the Republican Assembly caucus by asking members to sign a pledge not to pass a budget bill with any tax or "unnecessary" fee increases.

In a post yesterday, Owen relays a rumor that Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch was telling Republicans not to sign the pledge. Rep. Robin Vos denies this claim, but a number of Assembly Republicans are still refusing to sign it.

Owen's view is that by refusing to sign a budget with any increases, the Assembly Republicans will be sending a strong message to "the base" for 2008. The fact that this would result in no budget being passed and, subsequently, freeze state funding to agencies and local units at FY 2006 levels would demonstrate Republican resolve, Owen argues.

A few Assembly Republicans have signed the pledge, including Rep. Lasee, Rep. Zipperer, Rep. Nass, Rep. Kramer, Rep. Vukmir, Rep. LeMahieu, Rep. Lothian, and Rep. Pridemore. But it appears the bulk, including most of the leadership, is trying to walk a tightrope of agreeing in principle with the pledge while refusing to actually sign it.

Does any of this sound familiar? For those who followed the demise of the failed "Taxpayer Protection Amendment" last spring, it probably does. It was quite a spectacle.

At least six versions of the amendment were proposed in a two month span (five coming in a flurry at the end); the sponsors organized invite-only public hearings that sometimes were hidden from the media and the public; Assembly Republicans stayed up to all hours of the night to finally pass a version that those in favor of the initial proposal wouldn't even support; all the while, Republican leaders in the state Senate along with gubernatorial hopeful Mark Green spoke the language of the amendment without ever formally pledging their full support for it.

It seemed most in the state GOP, particularly those outside of the grasp of the southeastern part of the state, just wanted the amendment to go away. (And it's no coincidence that all of the representatives who have signed Owen's pledge, thus far, are from around the southeastern part of the state.)

But what's really a bit astounding to see now is how the "the fire-breathing tax-limiting fiscal conservatives of southeastern Wisconsin," as Charlie Sykes once described them (he included himself in that group), are apparently reacting to this utter failure to pass any of the TABORs.

As Sykes put it on his blog yesterday in response to the rumors that Assembly Republicans were conspiring against Owen's pledge: "Do you think the GOP learned it's lesson last year? Apparently not."

The logic there is truly eye-opening. An upset electorate supposedly tossed Republicans for not passing TABOR, and in their place elected Dems who didn't campaign on the premise of pushing anything close to TABOR and who undoubtedly would vote against it if given the chance.

It seems to me that the Assembly Republicans who are refusing to sign Owen's pledge did learn their lesson from last year, and it's those "fire-breathing tax-limiting fiscal conservatives of southeastern Wisconsin" who just won't let the party move on.


Side-Note: Before any commenters mistake what I'm writing here, I want to clarify that I don't think taking a position against the governor's budget is a problem. Rather, the problem is signing on to stringent and uncompromising pledges for virtually no revenue increases. This is essentially the same critique I put forward regarding WMC's reaction to the budget.

Similarly, the most fundamental problem with TABOR was how it wrote fiscal policy into the state constitution. That's why each version that was written came out a loser. Yeah, the details were bad, too, but it's the basic premise of inflexibility and loss of local control that truly made any incarnation of TABOR a non-starter.

I understand conservative voices like Owen, Sykes, and Belling believe that taking an uncompromising attitude toward the state budget is the most ideologically pure tactic, and they're probably right about that.

But, for much of the state, ideological purity is just another way of saying extreme.

LATE UPDATE (5/24): Check out Cory Liebmann's post on how at least one Republican legislator characterizes his colleagues across the aisle. Hint: It isn't complimentary.

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Blogger Dad29 said...

I figured you'd eventually use the "EXTREEEEEEEEEEEME" word--clever of you to keep it for the very last one.

The TABOR fiasco had to do with the inability of Pubbies to clearly articulate the problem, which is spending, not taxation.

No question that the "tax" thing is easier to package--but it has no cachet outside of the upper 25% of income earners (almost congruent with the membership of MMAC.)

It's the spending that must be controlled. Taxes SHOULD follow spending.

Yes, that will call for prioritizing. That's what "public policy" is all about.

May 23, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

The original TABOR two years ago dealt with spending, and that failed just as spectacularly as the version that focused on revenue (not taxes) from last year. In fact, when the revenue version was announced last February, it was heralded by conservatives as a much better amendment because it didn't focus on spending like the original.

At some point conservatives are going to need to admit that any way you slice it, writing stringent fiscal policy into the state constitution is a bad idea and a non-starter.

But, hey, if the Republicans want to give the spending version a shot again, I say go for it.

And, for the record, I'd label as extreme calls for ideological purity from both ends of the spectrum.

May 23, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

I'm not certain that an Amendment is the right move, either.

But a reduction in spending OUGHT to lead to a reduction in taxes.

How many State Revenoooers does it take to inspect ONE dinky bar?

(Just an example...)

May 24, 2007  
Blogger krshorewood said...

That raises an interesting point. When Wisconsin is ranked by taxes, depending upon the criteria, it comes out among the top tier.

As for spending, we are pretty average. So spending is a problem because?

Furthermore, any state budget that does not take into account inflation is not ideological purity, it's pure fantasy.

May 24, 2007  

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