Rumor has it that Senate President Andy Biggs (R-Atlas Shrugged) will be unveiling a “Tea Party” budget later today. Among other things, it reportedly includes a petulant $15 million cut to the Universities, and does not include the Governor’s proposed Medicaid expansion, despite the fact that it has bipartisan support.
The proposed budget was apparently drafted largely without the participation of his own Republican caucus. Even Majority Leader John McComish (R-Ahwatukee) was apparently kept in the dark, and reportedly members of the Governor’s staff were calling Democrats to find out what was up. Given all this, it should come as some surprise that a handful of Senate Democrats are rumored to be supporting this thing.
This is not the first time that something like this has happened. In 2007, a group of House Democrats mutinied against their own leadership, nearly scuttling a deal between legislative Democrats, a Democratic Governor, and Republican leadership in the Senate. It was a useless venture, as the House budget was not going to pass the Senate, and was certainly not going to be signed by the Governor. In her own defense, one of the mutineers said that she agreed to the budget because it was important that her “fingerprints” be on what passed, even though neither she nor her constituents got anything out of the deal. It was a deal for the sake of a deal, the sort of thing that gets one praised in the Arizona Republic as “effective” even though it accomplishes nothing.
The media will try to portray this as some sort of ideological fight among Democrats, pitting radical left-wingers against sensible moderates, even though it is no such thing. The truth is that, even though we have not seen the Biggs budget, we know enough about his priorities that we can assume that it targets the constituencies who depend on Democrats to fight for them. This is not about making deals or a debate about left and right, it is about real people who will, by neglect and design, suffer under this budget. Unfortunately, making friends is more important to some people than making good policy.
The tragic thing is that there are enough Republicans uncomfortable with his priorities that Biggs would not have the votes to pass this budget without the help of these Democrats. A little more solidarity among the Democratic Caucus would make it possible to pass a truly bipartisan budget reflecting a broader set of values and priorities.
Of course, this is all just rumors, reliable rumors, but rumors nonetheless. I have some suspicion about who the dissident Democrats are, but it would be irresponsible to name names. Lets just say that I suggest that folks in Tucson call their Senators.