( – promoted by lowkell)
By Paul Goldman
“With a little help from my friends” sang the Beatles, and in the past 24 hours, Governor Bob McDonnell has been shown how to get out of his ABC straitjacket. A few days ago, I wrote a column which was entitled “McDonnell as Houdini: His Excellency’s excellent escape plan?” It contained the following:
By refusing to pro-actively push for a referendum, Democrats think they are being smart, confident they can kill the Governor’s ABC plan in the State Senate, and embarrass him. They see McDonnell in a straitjacket, hanging high above the General Assembly building, seemingly with no way out, and all of it rebounding to the Democrats sure benefit and his sure loss. As Houdini, aka Erik Ivan Weisz, showed escaping from a straitjacket.. isn’t all that hard for a sane person, even a Republican, to get out a strait jacket, especially one put together by Democrats.
As it turns out, Governor McDonnell apparently needed some help from former Governors Wilder and Allen. Their plan is simple: instead of revenue neutrality in terms of the ABC privatization plan, the idea is to have the Republicans in the House pass a “reform” package of X number of proposals, including a McDonnell ABC plan, the sum total of which adds up to a collective net savings. Or put another way: the ABC deficit will be masked by the greater total savings from the other “reform” initiatives.
Right now, Governor McDonnell is trapped by his campaign promise to produce an ABC plan which is revenue neutral, budget lingo for the new “private” plan producing the same net revenue as the current state-owned and operated system. As myself and others have been saying for months, this is only possible, at least the way McDonnell wanted to do it, by imposing large tax increases to passed on to the consumer.
But Allen and Wilder have convinced McDonnell to forget about a High Tax stand-alone ABC plan, and instead go with a Big Deficit ABC plan as part of a broader Reform Package. While this produces at least a $47 million dollar hole in the state budget, the entire deficit can then be made to disappear, Houdini-like, by making the ABC plan just one plank in a broader Reform Plan due soon from the Governor’s Malek Commission.
Presto: With a few more nips and tucks, such a package can pass the House.
The key: Redefining the McDonnell promise of “revenue neutrality”, turning the term into “reform package net savings.”
How do I know this is the plan? Three reasons. First, George Allen’s statement makes it clear that unless McDonnell strips out the new taxes and focuses on government reform, the ABC plan is dead among Republicans;. Second, the words in the statement from Doug Wilder, where he acknowledges the deficit in the McDonnell ABC plan, but remains “confident [McDonnell’s] Commission on Government Reform will produce additional cost savings measures that will more than offset any [revenue loss].
And then, there is the Third Reason. If you go back and read my column from last month, the whole nine yards, as Bruce Willis might say, has basically already been laid step by step.
Allen and Wilder give it a few new twists and turns, or so I am presuming. Indeed, putting out a poll skewed to the pro-McDonnell side was a very nice touch, didn’t think of that one.
Moreover, I thought they might just bag the ABC plan – it’s a bad idea the way they want to do it – and settle for the other “reform” initiatives.
However, they seem to want to go for the whole thing. That’s bold. But Democrats need to realize Allen and Wilder have convinced the Governor to play a different game going forward.
So now that McDonnell seems to be ready to raise the level of his game, Democrats have to be prepared to do the same.