Actually, a sizable bipartisan cadre of House members changed its vote on budget bill HB22 within a week’s time. And the flip floppers voted against it first, defeating it. Then on Monday, they voted for the same bill and helped pass it.
But I use the term “flip floppers” advisedly, because the Dems, anyway, had good reason to be torn and can make a convincing argument that their change of vote was justified. As to the Republicans who shifted ground, I don’t know their reasons–nor care very much.
From the Democratic legislators’ point of view, HB 22, which replaces HB 18-20, is pork-laden.
For example, it’s an extension of the political theater we saw when the Republican leadership let freshman Denny–barely-squeaked-a-victory-out–Hoskins (R-Warrensburg) look magnanimous as he restored on the House floor some of the very cuts to Meals on Wheels that he voted IN FAVOR OF in the Budget Committee. Only that time, they at least weren’t wasting funds, because the money Hoskins “restored” would eventually have ended up back in the budget anyway. The Rs weren’t wasting taxpayer dollars; they were just frittering away time and fiddling with the truth.
In HB 22, though, they’re proposing to spend $328,168 for a solarium at the Warrensburg Veterans’ Home, and $959,127 for construction of a new chapel and renovation of an existing chapel at the same Veterans’ Home. Let’s see, that’s a grand total of $1,287,295. As Senator Everett Dirksen might have put it, a million here and a million there, pretty soon you’re talking serious money.
A new Denny Hoskins Memorial Chapel at the Warrensburg Veterans’ Home is all well and good, though–after all, it would create jobs–as long as it’s not part of a package that deprives the St. Louis Metro system of the $35 million in funds it needs to restore the draconian cuts it’s had to enact–because if those cuts stand, 12,000 St. Louisans (according to a Regional Commerce and Growth Association estimate) stand to lose their jobs. The bill offered $12 million for Metro–better than nothing, but a sum guaranteed to cost a lot of St. Louisans their jobs.
All of this talk about priorities, however, begs the question of why so many Dems voted against HB 22 last week and then voted for it this week. Jill Schupp (D-Creve Coeur) explained that she voted against the bill last week, because she and other Democrats were hoping to get more funds for Metro, as well as funds for the Ellis Fischel Cancer and Medical Education Center, for the Bellefontaine Habilitation Center for the mentally retarded and developmentally disabled, and for interoperable communications (that would allow police and firefighters to communicate on a secure channel in case of earthquake or other emergency). What Dems planned was to offer amendments for their priorities when the bill was re-introduced this week. No dice, said the Republicans. They had no intention of allowing any such amendments.
The other objection Democrats had to HB 22 was that funds need to be held in reserve in case, as is likely, Missouri revenue is still suffering next year. The bill proposes to spend a billion dollars of stimulus funds. This year. Those funds are intended to tide the state through tough times for the next two years, yet Republicans in the House propose to spend it all at once. Yes, indeed. Who’d have thought they’d be so cocksure about the success of Obama’s stimulus package?
In the end, HB 22 passed handily, because, as is so often the case, those with misgivings about the wisdom of public policy proposals in the House are forced to foist the adult decisions on the Senate. Democrats end up pinning their hopes for sanity on Nixon and on statements like this one from the other chamber:
Senate Appropriations Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, has proposed reserving $900 million of the federal funds. While promising to look at the House plan [to use stimulus funds for a tax cut] “with an open mind,” Nodler said that banking the money would be “prudent.”
How much the Senate will prune–including the Denny Hoskins Memorial Chapel?–out of this bill and whether they’ll give Metro more than $12 million is anybody’s guess. The only thing certain is that in the House, Democrats are forced to squander much of their time trying to rein in the crazies.