The alignment in Raleigh right now is far less Democrat vs. Republican or conservative vs. liberal than it is senate vs. McCrory and the house. Democrats are so far in the minority, that they have little ability to influence legislation. But the Republicans in the senate and house clearly don’t see eye to eye.
And the senate treats Pat McCrory like a toddler with scissors. They quietly, but firmly, take away anything that might be dangerous. In their mind, he seems to be a nuisance more than a partner or even adversary.
So with this scenario, we begin budget negotiations in the legislature. Thom Tillis says he’s happy with his budget even though he funds it through increased lottery proceeds. He also says the governor likes it so somehow he thinks that gives him a stronger negotiating position. The senate, though, has other ideas. They don’t use gimmicks to fund their budget. They use old fashioned cuts. And they will hurt, possibly for the long haul.
The GOP is only unified about two things. First, they want to make sure that the rich and big corporations don’t have to help close the budget hole that the legislature gave us. That’s a burden for the rest of us to shoulder. Second, they want to give teachers pay raises. And that’s to protect their seats by appearing to support public education. Not many people are buying it but that’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
The competing budgets are a reflection of the men who run the legislature. The senate budget is an ideological document hell bent on protecting the free market principals and social Darwinism that Phil Berger has so vigorously embraced. He’s a Calvin Coolidge Republican who believes in Coolidge’s famous quote, “The business of America is business.” What Coolidge Republicans like to forget is that his policies led to the Wall Street crash of 1929 that, in turn, led to the Great Depression.
The house budget, on the other hand, is a product of Thom Tillis’ bid for U.S. Senate. There are few losers. Everybody gets something. However, he pays for it with imaginary funds from the lottery. The people running the lottery say it won’t work, but that’s not deterring Tillis. This budget is all about him and his career, like everything else he’s done. After catering to his right flank for the past year or more, he’s running to the center and there’s no clearer evidence than his budget.
McCrory and his budget are virtually irrelevant, as is the governor himself. Tillis will try to prop him up a bit, but that’s about politics and shared geography. Berger, though, could care less. He’s going to essentially ignore McCrory and if the governor looks bad, that’s his own doing.
At the end of the day, Berger and Tillis will reach a compromise. It will probably a combination of painful cuts and increased lottery revenue. The only thing for sure, though, is that the rich and corporations won’t pay any more and that teachers will get a pay raise. Beyond that, who knows?
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