It’s mid-March, and no movement has been made on the budget since the governor’s budget address a month ago. What’s the delay?
A few weeks ago, Democrats found about $220 million in the couch cushions, and wanted to spend that money on the deficit. Now the Rell Administration can only find about $188 million of it. Great. So there’s that problem.
Of bigger importance, however is that no one can agree on how big the deficit actually is. The administration still seems to be clinging to the idea that the deficit is $6 billion. However, Republicans and Democrats in the legislature are arriving at different figures of either $8 billion or $8.7 billion. This is causing gridlock, because without a single number to work with, the two sides apparently can’t even get into the same room with one another.
The problem is that the governor’s tax-raise-free plan doesn’t count on a bigger deficit, and if there is a bigger gap she probably will have to sign off on a tax increase. She doesn’t want to do that. The legislature isn’t willing to play along because a) they don’t want to implement any of the governor’s budget if they can help it and b) they believe she isn’t in touch with reality.
The problem seems to be that no one has any clue how big the deficit is. Granted, it’s hard to predict how much money we’re going to be losing over the next two years. That’s why we have offices to do these kinds of projections.
In fact, we have two offices with competing projections: the Office of Fiscal Analysis ($8.7 billion or thereabouts) and the Office of Policy and Management ($8 billion, or $6 billion, depending on what day it is).
Maybe in order to cut down on government waste, we should eliminate one of those two departments. Or at least we could have only one of them deal with budget projections!
Suddenly, Rep. Fleischmann’s ten-year budget cycle is starting to look less crazy.