It’s been 18 days since Republicans in the State Senate finally got around to introducing an alternative to the budget proposed by Governor Bredesen in February. The original Republican plan offered draconian cuts to just about everything from economic development funding to infant mortality prevention.
Since then, negotiations seem to have narrowed the differences down to about $26m in appropriations and $20m in tax breaks for Tennessee flood victims, or .9% of appropriations, and .7% of revenue.
The differences have been characterized as “quibbling” by Speaker Ramsey, though in that same report he expressed that he’s willing to continue to “quibble” for “as long as it takes”.
Let’s hear it for good faith negotiations! /snark
According to Tom Humphrey the main sticking points are $16.1m for a fish hatchery, $5m for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, and $4.5m to reduce infant mortality in the state.
So lets see, Senate Republicans are against Economic Development, Civil Rights, and saving babies. Good luck running on those issues guys.
In reality, there are a lot more differences than just these three issues that are snarling the negotiations. One of the biggest issues is the way the Senate Republican proposal seeks to fund things.
In their initial proposal Senate Republicans sought to achieve cuts by using “non-recurring funds”. By using this tactic, the plan gives the impression of reducing cost, but the long-term consequences are dire. Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Mike McWherter warned us of these consequences two weeks ago.
I’m sure that Senate Republicans, particularly Speaker Ramsey, like the idea of running on what looks like slim and trim budget that doesn’t dip too deeply into the rainy day fund for reasons that Speaker Williams believes are purely political, but their short-term solutions for long-term problems illustrate just how brazenly they’re playing politics with the future of the state of Tennessee.
So now, with only one day of per-diem left, it appears that the State Senate will have to continue to negotiate the budget without it. House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner says they could be there well into June.
While most Tennesseans may not be paying close attention to what’s going on in Nashville, they’ll be facing a harsh reality in the very near future if the Senate Republican proposal passes. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans have bought just enough time in their “budget” that most Tennesseans will not actually feel the pain they would inflict upon the state until after the November elections. By then, it may be too late to reverse the damage quickly.
On Wednesday, I wrote about getting engaged. If ever there was a time to do so, that time is now. If we want to positively transform Tennessee, and ensure a bright future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, we have to take an active role in defining that future.
Our hands off approach is what helped bring us to this ridiculous Republican proposed budget. It will take a lot of hands and voices to make sure that it doesn’t see the light of day.
It’s time to saddle up folks.