Sure, one could chuckle at the idea that Republican lawmakers, flush with power in the General Assembly and enjoying all the attention they’re getting, are kind of fun to watch as they struggle with each other. But the meter’s running at an estimated $50,000 a day because GOP leaders can’t agree on funding for teacher assistants or driver’s education.
The House budget was more moderate, with a raise for state employees and preservation of those TAs, but Senate leader Phil Berger took Speaker Tim Moore to school. In the end, the total budget amount was closer to the Senate’s low-ball spending plan, and the agreed-upon “raise” for state workers and teachers was a $750 bonus, an insult to people, many of whom haven’t had decent raises in a long while. And the Senate, of course, packed all sorts of policy changes into what should be purely a budget document.
Lawmakers floated the idea that they were close to a budget deal. But now it turns out Moore and Berger are meeting into the night to try to work things out. Behind close doors they’re discussing changes in taxes and environmental policy the public hasn’t heard about. And while they haggle in secret, school districts don’t know how to budget for teachers and teachers assistants and face the prospect of having to fire people even though the school year has started.
This year’s budget talks – and this is just among Republicans, who pay no mind to minority Democrats – are the longest in 13 years. That’s simply astonishing, given that, upon taking charge of state government after more than 100 years, Republicans promised a more efficient and transparent way of doing business.