Friday, March 20, 2009

Unpleasant Options on the Budget

How will Jack Markell's proposed budget go over in Leg Hall? It's hard to predict how legislators will react in unprecedented circumstances, but this sentence from Markell's speech may hold a clue as to how the debate will go:
We are open to discuss other ideas to meet our financial challenges, and in fact encourage your ideas, because the $750M [deficit] we face now may be our best-case scenario, if the fundamentals of the national economy do not improve.
In other words, if you have other ideas on how to close the gap, bring 'em on. But if you want to replace a provision you don't like, be prepared to find other savings. The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) will meet three more times between now and June, and may well lower revenue estimates even further. Which means if you want to replace $1.00 in cuts or taxes over here, you may have to impose $1.50 of pain over there.
With conditions likely to worsen, leaders will be reluctant to close off options, no matter how unpleasant. Of course, it could all descend into chaos, but I somehow doubt it. The only thing worse for legislators would be to impose pain without agreeing to a budget.

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