Potted Plants and a Government Shutdown
Thursday, May 11, 2006 :::
The House leadership is increasingly eager to have the Governor take an active role in forging a budget compromise. The Governor's spokeshuman, Kevin Hall, brushes this aside with all the grace and wit we've come to expect from him:
"That is funny coming from them," Kevin Hall retorted. "It is the [Republican] House leadership that has failed its most fundamental responsibility: to adopt a budget.
"I would urge the speaker and chairman Callahan to expend more energy working with their Senate colleagues instead of casting about to blame others for their failure."
Actually, the Governor has been very active in attempting to reach a budget deal. Between his campaign to pressure the House into agreeing to the Senate's terms (complete with robo-calls), and his on-again, off-again townhall meetings, Mr. Kaine has been a bundle of nervous energy...directed against the House.
His people have been active, too, preparing mightily to push the government toward a shutdown. As one reader tells me:
Kaine's people have every intention of closing down the government. The unofficial strategy is like this: go to the mattresses, let Kaine spend money without a budget. That forces someone to go to court to stop him... and throws it back on the House of Delegates. "They' (or their allies) are suing to close your schools!"
That put the ball back in the Senate's court, and takes the HoD out of the scenario as players. They effectively lose the power of the purse. If they don't, and fight to keep it, they lose the budget fight. Aside from Kaine himself, no one is the slightest bit conciliatory on the third floor. They're playing hardball.
If this is indeed the strategy Kaine's people are pursuing, it is a dangerous one, indeed. Not only are they deliberately playing chicken with the state's finances (and that most holy of holies, the AAA bond rating), they are attempting to create what looks like a constitutional crisis. Does this sort of recklessness serve anyone's interests? Absolutely not. But it does explain why the House is eager to bring the Governor out in front once again. If the ship of state is headng for the rocks, then make sure the captain is lashed to the wheel.
Will the Senate agree to come to the table once again? Vince Callahan has urged John Chichester to schedule conference meetings as early as today (in a letter Senate mouthpiece Scott Leake obviously did not read). There is still plenty of time to reach a budget deal. But it is beginning to look as though the differences are much more than philosophical. They are increasingly personal. And that could spell trouble for just about everyone.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 5/11/2006