By Henry J. Waters III
Last week Gov. Bob Holden embarked on a strategy calculated to gain traction with important partisan constituencies while imposing maximum pressure and embarrassment on Republicans in the General Assembly. ... Day after day the governor vetoed yet another part of the budget, stretching out the process to highlight isolated areas for particular groups of constituents, hoping the accumulated angst would bring additional pressure on legislators and cause them to find more revenue rather than sticking with their current spending plan.
This dramatic budget-making turnaround is supposed to occur in the special session of the legislature Holden will call. I see no reason why he should expect to any such thing to happen.
During the regular session just completed, in which budget matters occupied most of the debate, all the affected special interests lobbied with full intensity. Lawmakers also heard, or did not hear, from constituents at large who had elected them to office, many with promises to curb spending and, even more to the point, not to raise taxes. These sentiments are not likely to change because Holden continues to ask for the opposite.
For the Holden budget approach to go into effect, taxes must be raised substantially, which will require a public vote. Not gonna happen, particularly in the form originally put forward by the governor. I'm sure Holden knows these odds and is making his vetoes as much to remain true to a partisan philosophy as to actually improve chances of getting a different budget. ...
If Holden had wanted to give his budget another try with minimal cost, he could have done what former Gov. Mel Carnahan did one year when he called a special session to run concurrently with the final days of the regular session. This caused legislators to give the budget another look without extending their time in Jefferson City. ...
Without so much fanfare in a quick session, the legislature might have taken another stab at passing a minor revenue bill or two. Even by Republican calculations, the budget is about $12 million out of balance. But nothing of great import is in the offing, largely because the budget handed to Holden engenders no widespread public criticism. Most people, I daresay, would just as soon he sign the thing.
I do not accuse the governor of insincerity. He does believe in spending more money in the areas he highlights. But I do think he is unnecessarily dragging out the process largely for political effect having more to do with tomorrow's primary election than today's budget.
Henry J. Waters III is the publisher of the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune.