If you only watched cable TV or the nightly news, you might get the impression that Scott Walker (WI-R) and Chris Christie (NJ-R) are the only governors in the country. Their hyper-confrontational tactics make them media darlings (Tonite on the news: yelling at teachers, now with video), but there are other governors in the country tackling budget deficits without scapegoating public service or the unions that support service employees like bus drivers and teachers.
Let's take some other examples ... EJ Dionne has a list of Governors who are doing the responsible adult thing and adding revenue enhancement to spending cuts as a way out of the mess they are in due to the recession (and their predecessors):
The brave ones are governors such as Jerry Brown in California, Dan Malloy in Connecticut, Pat Quinn in Illinois, Mark Dayton in Minnesota and Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii. They are declaring that you have to cut programs, even when your own side likes them, and raise taxes, which nobody likes much at all. Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee has warned of possible tax increases too.
Here's a closer look at the less well-known (than CA's Brown) Dannel Malloy, for example:
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's budget is being picked apart, in hearing rooms at the state Capitol, on talk radio and the web, and in town hall meetings across Connecticut. But the real debate is about the essence of the man, not the details of his budget.Malloy's a moderate, not a progressive, but he's looking at the budget as a problem to fix, not (see Walker - WI) an ideological crusade to push. And as you can see from the headlines, he's not exactly making everyone delighted. There's plenty of pain to spread. But, and this is the point, even the critics recognize this as a credible response that includes both revenue and spending to reach balance. The willingness to at least look at revenue separates the Democrats from the Republicans, and his current town meeting tour of the state shows at least a willingness to listen.
Is the first Democratic governor in 20 years really intent on demanding $1 billion in labor savings -- a 20-percent giveback? His tax package is a political disaster, seemingly calculated to mobilize as many opponents as possible, raising income and sales taxes and whacking a popular property tax credit.
Conservatives are aghast at his endorsement of an earned income tax credit, money that would go to the working poor. Liberals are furious he won't hit the rich harder, digging dollars from the only demographic that gained in the past decade.
He can't be serious, can he?
He inherited a $3.2 billion deficit, a big hole in a $19 billion budget, one of the worst faced by any governor. His Republican opponent, Tom Foley, had insisted it could be erased without new taxes. Malloy's proposed solution: $1.5 billion in tax increases and $1.8 billion in spending cuts, including $1 billion in labor savings.
Here are some of the statewide responses:
Tough but balanced
It may not be perfect and there's still plenty of work to do, but the accomplishments in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's first proposed budget shouldn't be lost on anyone - nor should the leadership he displayed in trying to get Connecticut back on the road to fiscal health.
An adult in the governor's mansion -- what a novel concept.Norwich Bulletin:
Connecticut's Dannel Malloy has emerged as a voice of reason in the national debate over budgets and spending. One side is saying, in effect, "It's all public workers' fault." The other side, Malloy's, says, "No, it's not."
Malloy is not letting public employees off the hook. His budget calls for, as he says, "shared sacrifice," including $2 billion in givebacks from state workers. Without those concessions, he says, the only choice is mass layoffs. We take him at his word.
And he is proving himself willing to take an unpopular stand -- no one makes friends by proposing to raise taxes.
It’s not a Traveling Medicine Show where sugar water is being passed off as the magic elixir. It’s a frank, no sugarcoated discussion about the reality of the state’s situation.
And it’s a hard sell.
Malloy is not laboring under the misguided belief that it’s going to be easy convincing people they have to swallow the bad-tasting medicine in order to get better. But that’s exactly his message — with a bit more emphasis on the “getting better” part.
Rep. Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, minority leader of the state House, in an otherwise critical piece.
The governor does deserve credit for proposing an honest budget that does not use gimmicks or borrow to pay operating expenses. He asked for serious concessions from the state employees. He has also embraced the idea of consolidation by proposing to fold 81 state boards and commissions into 57.Predictably, Cafero's complaint is that Malloy dared to raise taxes, as if that's not even allowed to be thought of. Taxes aren't going to be popular (they never are), but like Jerry Brown and unlike Republican Governors like Christie, the balance in the balanced budget comes from both revenue enhancement and spending cuts. A recent free market Yankee Institute (poll by Rasmussen) highlights people's dislike of taxes, but
...despite all the disapproval of Malloy's plans, 50 percent told the Yankee Institute's pollster that they approve of the way he's doing things so far.
As EJ Dionne notes in his own piece on responsible Dem Governors:
And those governors doing the hard work trying to balance cutbacks and tax increases get ignored, because there's nothing sexy about being responsible.
Malloy's taking the less popular but balanced approach to a balanced budget. He's talking to unions in private, not via the nightly news (concessions are coming, collective bargaining will not be touched, and as per the current plan, pensions will be funded.) What a novel concept. Anyone who thinks it's easy to get out of a budget hole ought to talk to—um—an adult. And if you do, you'll find it can be done without eliminating collective bargaining or turning the state against you. Scott Walker, take note.