House democrats complained in yesterday’s media briefing that La Cervecera is not active enough in the budget debate. The governor’s staff, to her credit, has been talking to members of both caucuses, but the complaint is that she hasn’t done much in those meetings except to reiterate her vague outline of a “five point plan,” which is a poor substitute for a real budget that can be debated.
The thought among some is that she is playing the same sort of game that Janet Napolitano used to play: wait until the Republican caucus came to an impasse, then ride in with a plan and a ready made coalition of folks who would vote for it. There is a very important difference here. Napolitano had her own budget that was part of the discussion and ready to go when the smoke cleared. Other than these “five points” (the most specific proposal of which is to end “fund sweeps”), what alternative has she presented when the time comes?
Another important difference is the involvement of the governor’s staff. When she was first appointed, even lefty wags like me were impressed by the firepower she brought to bear on her office, people like Doug Cole and Chuck Coughlin. The complaint is that these two haven’t been around in budget discussions and that the staff handling the budget is, as one railbird put it, “the JV Squad.” I suppose when you don’t have your own solid proposals to discuss, it is hard to go all in.
She’s even allowed what few specific proposals she was pushing to become amporphous slop. For example, the billion dollar sales tax hike she was excited about only a few weeks back has now become something that can only be paraphrased as “let’s raise some money from somewhere, or something…maybe…”
You can’t fight something with nothing, and so far the only alternative proposal is that given by House Democrats. Although parts of their budget have been proposed as amendments to the budget, it isn’t as much part of the legislative discussion (if you can call it that) as an executive budget would be. It’s unfortunate, but true. That is why the governor had an obligation to offer a plan that amounted to more than “wouldn’t it be nice if…?” when this whole thing started.
NB: Jan Brewer drawing by Arnulfo Bermudez.