Among other things we missed this morning was Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s release today of a proposed budget for the next fiscal year, beginning July 1.
The $5.3 billion budget is about $142 million more than the current year, with most of the increase going to human services. A tiny amount, about $23 million or an increase of less than 1 percent in current spending, would go to public education.
The budge includes no cost of living raise for public employees. It includes the Obamacare Medicaid expansion windfall, worth anywhere from $100 to $175 million a year in a net gain for the state budget, but doesn’t include potential savings from a shift to managed care of some or all of conventional Medicaid spending. (Surely to goodness legislators and judges won’t ask for still another pay raise from the independent citizens pay commission after last year’s windfall and a no-raise year for much lower paid state employees.)
It is again worth noting that the budget is restricted by $100 million or so by the tax cut Hutchinson gave all but the bottom 40 percent of Arkansas workers in 2015 and enhanced by revenue from proposed additional charges he wants to lay on working poor in the Medicaid expansion program.
Some Democrats are bridling at rubber-stamping Hutchinson’s plan, and with good reason. They gave him all the votes to pass the private option in 2015 and got nothing in return, except a beating at the polls from Republicans talking of the evils of Obamacare.
Somehow, even some normally rational people on the left seem to think Democrats should swallow Hutchinson’s proposal as written and want to blame Democrats if it doesn’t pass. I think politics is a two-way street. While the Democrats have leverage, they should use it — whether to make Asacare less punitive or to get support for an earned income tax credit or ethics reform legislation or some other meaningful demonstration that their votes and the people they represent are appreciated. If Democrats refuse to accept a no-negotiation approach from Hutchinson, the blame goes both ways.