Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Budget is Halfway Done!

Or, to put it more accurately, it's not even close to being finished.

Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch has been going out of his way at conference committee hearings to stress for the media in the room that 571 items have been agreed upon, which must mean serious progress has been made. Of course, those 571 uncontroversial items represent only 2 percent of the budget in terms of total dollars.

This suggests, to me, a couple of things.

First, the Dems went into conference committee deliberations with a much stronger hand than the GOP. The Assembly budget took a whooping in the press not only because of its positions, but also because of how drastically it differed from the budget that came out of the JFC.

A GOPer might respond that the JFC hearings were skewed to favor the Dems since a split vote sided with Doyle's budget. That's true, but that's also fair considering Dems control two out of the three budget pieces.

And, the fact is, Huebsch & Co. on the conference committee wouldn't even agree to the hundreds of proposals that passed the JFC with support from at least half of the GOP delegation, which is a clear testament to how far the Assembly budget strayed from the little progress that was made during the JFC portion of the process.

Plus, the bottom line for the point is that the public perception -- I happen to think it's accurate -- is that if the budget is delayed, it's the Assembly that's delaying it because of its outlandish budget positions, which is why Huebsch is so focused on stressing glass-is-half-full lines that don't really add up to significant progress.

The second thing these lines suggest is that the GOP isn't in all that much of a hurry to pass the budget. On the surface, this point may not seem to fit with the last, but it becomes clearer when you think of it in terms of two constituencies the GOP is trying to juggle.

On the last point -- the point of progress -- the GOP is aiming to pacify the feelings of the public at large. On the second point -- the point of putting up a fight -- the GOP is aiming to please the demands of its base, specifically the fire-breathing fiscal conservative base that resides most heavily in the SE part of the state.

The longer the GOP can hold out on the budget, the happier the base will be that it's sticking to its zero-tax-increase pledge. But, of course, it's a tightrope walk since the GOP doesn't want to simultaneously give the appearance that it's stalling progress.

This is largely the same tightrope walk that Mark Green tried to navigate in last year's gubernatorial election, and it was surely a big reason he wasn't able to craft a central message that could drive his campaign (of course, it didn't help that the Doyle campaign drove home the "Green is extreme" message perfectly, which prevented Green from making effective pleas to the public at large while simultaneously exciting the base).

I'd be surprised to see the GOP Assembly succeed where Green failed, especially since time is quickly running out. As Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) has said on more than one occasion about the budget, "I've got all summer. This is the only thing we have to pass."

Although the last day of summer is officially September 22, most tend to associate it with Labor Day weekend, which gives the conference committee three short weeks -- and meeting 1-2 times per week means they're really short -- to work something out before the kids go back to school and more folks start paying attention to what the heck is taking so long at the Capitol.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"First, the Dems went into conference committee deliberations with a much stronger hand than the GOP. The Assembly budget took a whooping in the press not only because of its positions, but also because of how drastically it differed from the budget that came out of the JFC."

What a ridiculous statement. The Dems do have a stronger hand, but that is based on the fact that they have the East Wing as well.

There are maybe 50 people in the enitre state that would look at the difference between the Assembly budget and the JFC product. Maybe 10% of the entire population knows what JFC even is and most of them are union menbers.

The people know that the Assembly did not raise taxes and the Dems blew the roof off taxes. After claimed he wouldn't raise taxes - the perception is that he misled the public.

ALso, the idea that the Assembly budget took on water in the media must not have made its way to John Q public considering the Wispolitics poll that put support for Healthy Wisconsin at 36%.

That stinky pig has Assembly Dems running for the hills. They purposely did not bring it up on the floor of the Assembly knowing what a disaster it is.

August 09, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

To say the Dem control the governor's office gives them a clear advantage in conference committee deliberations is what's ridiculous. Doyle will get his opportunity to veto the budget up and down, but he's had that same ability the last two budgets when the GOP controlled the entire legislature. The fact that Huebsch is going out of his way to stress what's been accomplished so far suggests he's concerned about the public reaction to an impasse, and why else would he be concerned about that unless he felt the impasse would be pegged on the GOP?

Meanwhile, the Dems are openly telling the press (see the end of the article) that next to nothing significant has been accomplished so far in deliberations, which says they don't fear a public backlash over an impasse.

August 09, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing has ever been accomplished AT the conference table. That is where you go after things have been worked out to announce settlements.

This silly game of making speeches at the table is being requested by one side - the dems.

Huebsch's base would be thrilled with no budget - so why would he feel the need to posture on making it look like things are done?

The Dems are stalling so they can save face on withdrawing the Healthy Wisconsin disaster. The governor and the Assembly Dems don't want this pig around any longer. Even some Senate Dems are peeling off. Someone just needs to clue Judy in on the fact that their stunt for health care has failed miserably...

August 09, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Huebsch's base would be thrilled with no budget - so why would he feel the need to posture on making it look like things are done?

Did you even read my post, Anon? As I explained, the GOP is concerned with two constituencies -- its base and the public at large. One of the major points that hit the headlines with the Assembly budget was that it could cause an impasse (see here and here for two examples). Whether or not you want to believe that the Assembly budget is actually to blame for a potential impasse, that's the view of the public at large, and Huebsch desperately trying to give the impression of progress is evidence of that. At the same time, Huebsch & Co. are trying to appease the base by sticking to their guns on a no-tax increase budget as long as possible. As I argue in the post, it's a tightrope walk.

And what's your point about nothing being accomplished AT the conference table? How is it pertinent to our discussion whether the actual conference committee decisions take place at a physical conference table or behind closed doors over the course of the deliberations?

And the Dems didn't invent making "speeches" at the conference committee table. If press is around, politicians will grandstand. That's true just about anywhere you go. And the press has always covered the conference committee deliberations.

BTW, I couldn't find that WisPolitics poll on Healthy WI that you mentioned. Could you leave a link for it?

August 09, 2007  
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