The General Assembly is starting to resemble that guest who just won’t leave the party. But I’m not sure it’s their fault. From time to time, people grouse about how if they ran their business in this fashion, they’d get fired or whatever. Legislating isn’t a business — unless it’s the sausage making business. The primary distinction is that corporations are not democracies or even republics. They tend to be autocracies – a form of government that can be wonderfully efficient, but which we avoid for other reasons. So, efficiency isn’t the hallmark of good government.
The Republicans and the Democrats are in the midst of a good old-fashioned negotiation. Each has priorities and is looking for leverage to get as much out of the negotiation as possible. Each side typically sees the ticking clock as an asset — or at least distrusts the notion that the other side is putting its best foot forward with a lot of time left on the clock, so serious negotiations are tough unless a deadline is looming. Now the deadline is approaching. Old appropriations expire on June 30 and the legality of continued funding will probably become ambiguous at best for a lot of government functions. I tend to think they’ll reach a deal. If it were just the House Democrats and Senate Republicans negotiating, I’d be more confident of a budget being past. In fact, I’m pretty sure they would have passed a budget in the regular session. Governor Daniels is the fly in the ointment. At the end of the regular session, he shifted his negotiation stance at the 11th hour and effectively pulled the rug out from under the House and Senate. Perhaps not so incidentally, it is Gov. Daniels whose tastes seem to run most toward the autocratic.
The biggest sticking point seems to be that the Democrats want to fund the city schools at a level that’s reasonably close to the present level. Gov. Daniels wants to drastically cut spending, particularly in school districts around Indianapolis and Gary. He favors a spending formula that rewards well-heeled, growing suburban schools. I think the debate over a one year budget versus a two year budget is just so much sound and fury. It’s gimmicky, and I doubt the House Democrats are actually all that married to the idea.
Rumor has it that the legislators are negotiating through the weekend. Then they have Monday and Tuesday to pass a budget. I expect they’ll put it on Gov. Daniel’s desk at the last minute so that the decision about whether to shut down the government falls squarely on his shoulders with all the praise or blame that goes with it. And, if they do that, I expect he’ll blink and sign whatever they give him.
But, you know, I’m just a guy with a computer and an opinion. My computer isn’t worth a heck of lot at this point, and I wouldn’t put a lot of money down on my opinions either.