Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Jerry Brown goes down to the wire with the Republicans

Tomorrow, March 10, was Jerry Brown's self-established goal to get a budget deal with Republicans. Not surprisingly, negotiations are down to the wire, as David Siders and Kevin Yamamura report in Budget talks resume amid doubts Dems and GOP can agree 03/09/2011. Unlike the sad spectacle we're seeing at the national level with the federal budget, Jerry is keeping the focus on the actual problems and not coming up with preemptive concessions not matched by the Republican side. And he's rejecting kick-the-can-down-the-road measures that create the kind of debilitating deadlock Republicans use to promote cynicism about politics and to extract more and more and more concessions from Democrats if the Dems are willing to play that game. (On the federal negotiations, see Robert Reich, Why the Democrats Should Never Have Started Paying Ransom to Avoid a Shutdown 03/07/25011.)

No one has recently won any prophecy awards predicting an awakening of pragmatism and good sense among Republicans. But the Party is pretty far out there in dreamland, pursuing an almost exclusively negative wrecker strategy. I wish the crew at Calbuzz would sign their articles, but they often produce good analysis. In The Death and Possible Re-Birth of Negotiation, they explain explain the status of the tiny group of California Republicans in the legislature who are trying to find a more reality-based approach to politics:

At a time when "compromise" has been stricken from the actions and vocabulary of Tea Partiers in Washington and the intransigent governor of Wisconsin (except as a pejorative to attack those who disagree with their rigid stances), the efforts to strike a deal by a handful of GOP legislators in Sacramento is a smart and responsible move, both as policy and as politics.

By bucking the unrelenting pressure of no-compromise apparatchiks and no-tax ideologues in their party's extremist wing, these Republicans – like Sam Blakeslee, Anthony Cannella, Bill Tom Berryhill, and Bob Huff, to name a few — have set the stage for a political counter-narrative to the bitter union-busting drama being played out in Madison, and the looming threat of a federal government shut-down by Congress under Weeper of the House John Boehner.

If the GOP’s Responsible Caucus can wring enough legislative concessions from Brown to justify the intraparty flak they’ll take for helping him pass the key element of his plan – a statewide vote on extending $12 billion in temporary higher taxes and fees – they also will have a dealt a major blow to the politics of deadlock that have dominated California for a generation.

Urging them on – with visions of business-friendly reforms dancing in their heads – are groups like the Bay Area Council, Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and even the California Chamber.
The article continues directly to provide some of that famous journalistic balance. And in this case, it fits reasonably well into the context of the report without doing serious harm to the facts. It's true that "the Democratic left" is "extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted." And if Jerry cuts a bad deal in the end, enough Dems may balk to force reconsideration:

It should be noted, by the way, that Brown’s problem is not just with Republicans. Forces on the Democratic left are extremely upset about the massive spending cuts Brown has already extracted and, if the Republicans seeking a deal overplay their hand and some interest group – the California Teachers Association, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, Service Employees International Union, or any other – decides to oppose whatever deal Brown negotiates, the whole thing could explode.
But from what I've seen and heard, the spectrum of interests who would prefer not to see state budget cuts look at what Jerry is doing in general as a responsible way to deal with a bad economic situation that has produced a bad state budget condition, on top of the damage done during Schwarzenegger's 7+ years as Governor. Jerry has a reservoir of trust at the moment on the Democratic side.

This really is down to the wire. March 10 isn't is fixed in stone as a deadline. But for the critical ballot measure piece of Jerry's plan, a tax extension he wants put before the public in June, a decision has to be made within days. We'll get a deal when we get a deal. And like most labor negotiations, both sides are likely to wait until the last minute to sign off on it. And it's always possible that no Republicans will go along, and the Democrats will have to do it on a purely partisan basis. I'm sure that's a fight Jerry is ready to have, as well, if the Republicans insist on playing it that way.

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