Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A brief discussion of political budgeting

It has come to my attention that Idaho's governor, Butch Otter, has proposed a budget that contains cuts to education and parks. Naturally, the public is up in arms... which is just what I think the governor wanted.

I think Governor Otter is looking for political capital to increase taxes, using the time-honored strategy of presenting the most popular services as the first ones to be cut. For example, any time anyone wants to cut public broadcasting, "Sesame Street" is the first show headed for the chopping block, and President Obama got rid of the world's most advanced fighter jet rather than some other military program. So, obviously, the only way to save these popular programs is to pony up more money.

Now, some would say that Governor Otter is opposed to tax increases, and perhaps he is, personally. But in his role as governor, he has to favor higher taxes and more services, because it increases the power of his office to distribute benefits to the people who elected him, and makes those same people more reliant on his re-election.

There's another time-honored method the state could use if it wanted to pay expenses the voters didn't want - lawsuit funding. Under this plan, organizations that are facing budget cuts sue the state for some reason or another, and the state mounts an ineffective defense (or, if nobody in the press is paying attention, defaults). The state is ordered to make the payments, and the politicians get to blame the "activist judges" for ruining their sure-fire plan to end government waste.

Then again, the city that pioneered that strategy isn't doing so well.

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