Saturday, June 23, 2007

How to Blow a Budget

If there is something Jim Amann and Don Williams are NOT, it's shrewd tacticians. There is a very good reason House and Senate Democrats, enjoying super majority and veto-proof status didn't get much of what they wanted in the budget deal. Simply put, they showed their hands too early.

Chris Keating gives some interesting insider dope on the critical flaw in the Democrats' strategy at his blog at the Courant. In essence, when Democrats were unable to get a veto-proof margin on their own budget, despite 107 members in the House and 24 members in the Senate, they ran their budget anyway. When they did that, they exposed their lily-white, malodorous underbelly.

"Once that became clear, it strengthened our position,'' said George Gallo, Chief of Staff to the House Republicans. "They lost a bargaining chip. They really did. That changed the dynamic, and that changed the debate. That really sealed their fate. That was the turning point.''

Gallo observed that House and Senate Republicans now knew where all the Democrat votes were, and that they would not be able to override a veto. They would be unable to get what they wanted, and they would need to make a deal.

If House Speaker Amann and Senate President Williams had not decided to make a big show of ramming through their first sham budget which the governor quickly vetoed, they would have had far more leverage to negotiate with. Instead, they gave a clear demonstration of where all the fractures in their caucuses were, and it was easily exploited.

As it turns out, Jim Amann and Don Williams would have been better off having accepted Governor Rell's proposed budget from February. The supermajority worked themselves out of the position of advantage, and as the House Republican 'No Tax Increase' budget got momentum from public approval, there was little they could do.

In the Keating blog, Rep. Chris Caruso (D-Bridgeport) denied House Republicans made any "sea change" to the budget. Perhaps Caruso missed what was going on in between ambling his sizable girth out to the bench outside the House Chamber to make constant cellphone calls concerning his mayoral bid, and being captured on camera on CTN consuming enormous sandwiches at his chamber desk.

A budget was finally passed in the House at 2:25 a.m. this morning. It's not perfect; spending is way up, and there is no substantial tax relief of an kind. However, taxes were not increased, and that is a major victory for House and Senate Republicans, Governor Rell, and the taxpayers of Connecticut.

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