David Michael Miller
They did it again. Inexplicably the minority Democrats bailed out the Republican majority without getting anything in return. It boggles the mind.
The question was borrowing for roads. When the state budget passed in the summer, legislators appropriately balked at Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to borrow heavily for roads instead of raising gas and other transportation taxes. A bipartisan group of legislators voiced their concerns about growing debt in the transportation fund. Behind the scenes, legislators said that the votes were there for a tax increase if only the governor would signal his support.
But in the midst of what looked at the time like a promising run for president, Walker shut down any and all tax increases. So the Legislature punted. They approved $500 million in borrowing, but held back on another $350 million, pending evaluation of needs and a later approval by the Joint Finance Committee.
When release of that extra $350 million of borrowing came up for a vote Nov. 4 in the Joint Finance Committee, the GOP majority didn’t have the votes. So, the four Democrats on the panel saved their bacon, providing enough votes to let the borrowing go forward.
This is only the second time in four years that the Republicans have asked for Democratic support for anything. The first was a few months ago when they needed Democratic votes for the deeply unpopular Milwaukee Bucks arena deal. The Dems obliged then as well — and again, demanding nothing in return.
This is anybody’s idea of malfeasance on a strategic level and, in my view, both votes were bad public policy. Supporting the Bucks arena is nothing more than caving to political extortion, and borrowing even more for roads is such bad policy that even the road-building lobby opposes it.
And if the Democrats felt some need to come to the Republicans’ rescue on these issues, why didn’t they at least demand a high price for their votes? For example, on the Bucks deal they could have demanded that the money stay in the state budget where it belonged and garner their votes only if $250 million — about the same amount as what the Bucks got — was restored to the university system.
On the road borrowing vote, they could have demanded that the vote be rolled into a bigger bill providing more money for buses and other forms of alternative transportation.
But none of that happened. After getting the bejesus kicked out of them by the majority party on issue after issue, the Democrats still found it in their hearts to give the GOP the votes they needed so that Republicans who didn’t want to take a hard vote didn’t have to.
The Democratic Party is just lost. It has no ideas, no leadership and no energy. It doesn’t just find itself in the minority. It has earned minority status.