A possible budget alternative from Senate Dems


    by Paul Goldman

    One of the dangers of the current budget stalemate to the 2013 Democratic ticket is this: if it goes on long enough, the big winner could be Governor McDonnell. Why? This is a fight between the GOP House and the Dem co-majority on the floor of the Senate. This allows McDonnell to speak from “on high”, above the fray. This is actually a perch where McDonnell has proven quite adept, as is generally the case with Governors in such situations.

    In sum, McDonnell gets to define the “reasonable” position and likewise gets to paint those into the unreasonable corner. Moreover, and this is hardball politics to be sure: There is nothing in this budget stalemate to benefit the 2013 Dem ticket.

    That’s reality: It really doesn’t matter whether the Senate Dems win everything they want, it doesn’t help the 2013 ticket in the final analysis relative to the playing field. So it is a no upside, potential downside equation. Not good.  


    As for the Senate Dems, naturally they want to win as much as they can. But even for them, the risk vs reward equation is not great, since they need the GOP to calculate that going home without a budget hurts them.

    Otherwise, they will call the bluff: That’s what I would do if it were my choice, this is new territory for Democrats, we have never before risked being seen in this light with a popular GOP Governor.

    If I were McDonnell, I would conclude the following: Whatever I lost with ultrasound around the country, I could regain – among Republicans for sure – with a DEM budget stalemate.

    Remember the Warner example: In the end, the public wanted the stalemate over even if it meant higher taxes, they wanted it done with. It helped the Governor because he was seen as the adult in the room.

    Thus, Governor McDonnell would likely be able to do the same thing: make a few concessions, and get huge rewards from the public for stopping the GA from doing something crazy. Perception for sure but that’s politics.

    The better McDonnell’s numbers in 2013, the harder it is for Dems to win.

    Is this real risk worth the likely reward of what make now be getting ready to take place?

    From the 2013, perspective, I think not, and the same from 2012.

    So let me suggest this.

    Why can’t the VA Democrats introduce a budget that basically passes the 99% of what everyone agrees on, and leaves the 1% for further discussion over the next few weeks.

    This way, you take the “government shutdown” thing off the table which is the big risk especially given the likely reward.

    True the government shutdown thing is hype, but again politics is perception and if the Governor gets to spin it his way, the Dems are cooked in 2013.

    It has been a while since I did budget stuff at the state level, but as a legal and practical matter, this 99% solution is doable.

    The idea is to put the onus on the GOP for any shutdown scenario: if they won’t due the 99% solution, then this makes the Dems the good guys.

    But you say: “Paul, doesn’t that take away the Dems’ leverage?”

    No, quite the opposite.

    The 2012 Session is already over in terms of the usefulness of Committee membership. This leaves only 2013 for that. But this is a gubernatorial election year and the truth is, neither Cuccinelli, or Bolling, much less McDonnell are going to want to get into the mess they had this year.

    McDonnell particularly is going to want to be doing things to leave office with the highest possible approval rating.

    2012 is not 2013: It is a one-time deal.

    Meaning: The legislative stuff is going to be different, and thus the value of those Senate committee slots also. Moreover, the whole tie-Senate thing will define the LG’s race. If the GOP LG candidate wins, then it will seen as a public endorsement of the GOP approach. If the Dem LG candidate wins, then by definition the game changes in 2014 anyway.

    Bottom line: To the extent this budget stalemate continues over Senate rules etc., it is a fight over something that is likely not be all that important in 2013 and beyond.

    SO: Is it worth the risk given the rewards if you win and the penalty if you don’t?

    Thus, to me, the real reason to keep fighting is on the substance of those things Dems believe need to be changed.

    That doesn’t change with the 99% solution, rather it is enhanced since everyone in the state gets to see what is at stake.

    To the extent the Dem position is popular, then it gets public support it would not otherwise have. To the extent the public rejects it, well it suffers as always happens in our system.

    Net, net: I think the 99% solution, on balance for DEM interests in 2012 and 2013, is an alternative which has some potential. It isn’t perfect.

    But it avoids giving McDonnell a potential huge win which raises his image, gives him a lot more juice to elect a GOP successor and set’s him up  nice against Warner in 2014.

    So I put it out there.


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