February 16, 2010

Analysis: Love letters from the party leaders

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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been exchanging letters – even though they see each other every day. The letters testify to the enduring nature of their mutual disaffection.

Tuesday, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch sent a kiss-off reply to Thursday’s biting missive from House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell and Minority Whip Chris Shank. The love letter from the two Mikes could be distilled into the cuddly phrase: “put up or shut up.”

Jan. 29, the chairs of the House and Senate budget committees sent the Republican leaders in both chambers the fairly suggestive message: we’ve shown you ours, so you show us yours – as in budget cuts. They wanted the Republicans to show up at a Feb. 23 hearing to lay out how they were going to cut the budget by the $2.5 billion they said they wanted to in December.

Senate GOP leaders declined, figuring it was a political ambush. They said they would participate in the budget cutting process in the usual way.

The usual way involves Republicans proposing budget cuts in committee, and the Democrats voting most of them down. The budget then comes to the floor, Republicans offer cuts (except when there’s a Republican governor) and the Democrats vote them down.

Maryland has an “executive budget” in which the legislature can only cut from the governor’s spending plan.

House Republicans, unlike their Senate colleagues, told MarylandReporter.com, sure, they will participate in the hearing.

Their Thursday pre-Valentine was filled with love-bites, such as: “What the governor calls ‘fiscal responsibility’ has been characterized by raiding every state savings account and fund balance, passing massive tax increases, advocating for a fatally flawed slots scheme, and begging for bailouts from the federal government.”

In a sweet nothing, O’Donnell and Shank added that the legislature “has also been complicit in the governor’s negligence.” The letter goes on trashing the Dems and the gov, and then says in their RSVP to the firing squad: we don’t like your proposed date for our mauling, and we’d like you to invite the public to attend as well.

Sorry guys, say the Mikes: the date of our proposed love fest stays — the GOP proposed date of March 9 was the same day Senate budget committees were supposed to make their decisions. And it sounds like the public won’t be invited either.

Hold the roses on this match-up.

But if the Republicans leaders don’t show up for the date, the two Mikes have a backup. They’ll ask the Department of Legislative Services “to present options for a $2.5 billion reduction to the state’s budget.”

Some Republicans call this the “doomsday” budget, designed to scare citizens out of their wits.

No word Tuesday night on how the Republicans might respond.

–Len Lazarick