Michael: Napolitano's Budget CompromiseMany Democrats are upset by the deal that Governor Napolitano cut a deal with GOP lawmakers to secure the final components of her budget priorities: 17 million in all-day kindergarten funding and 7 million for an extension of the U of A medical school in Phoenix. Some would have preferred she go to the mat, veto the budget, and shut down the government if needs be. The terms of Napolitano’s deal speaks volumes about the thinking of radical Republicans on the likely public perception of a shut down. There is little doubt Napolitano would have fared better than the legislative Neo-Cons, and they are well aware of that fact. But we can’t afford to imperil the lock the Governor seems to have on re-election in 2006 – she’s the best weapon we Democrats have in stopping the radicals. With over 40 vetoes to her credit, just imagine how much worse things would be without a strong and popular Democratic governor keeping the legislative radicals in check.
I would remind Democrats that the Governor stood firm against vouchers, denying the radicals an important legal tool for diverting yet more public school funds to private schools, and she cut more than 90% of the GOP’s demanded corporate tax diversions to private scholarships. In addition, she was able to put in place important mechanisms to exercise oversight of private schools receiving diverted tax revenues. To my mind, the Governor made an excellent, and skillful, deal.
Some are concerned that the door has been opened to growth in the size of tax revenue diversions to private schools. But that threshold was passed long ago when individual tax diversions to private scholarships where allowed. The sad truth is that Napolitano is fighting a desperate rearguard action against an all-out assault on our public schools by GOP ideologues and religious extremists. If we win every battle in as lopsided a manner as the Governor won this one, we’ll be doing well.
If voters want to stop the assault on our public schools, and reverse the budgetary neglect that has buried our state at the bottom of the heap in per child educational spending, we have to do more than rely on Governor Napolitano. We will need kick the GOP radicals out and elect many more moderate Republicans and Democrats to the state legislature.
Unless you want to see American Madrassas funded by state taxes, perhaps it is time to get serious about supporting GOP moderates. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and Republican moderates have no love for their party’s right wing radicals. At this point, many moderate Republicans are really more at home, policy wise, in the Democratic Party than in their own. Perhaps Democrats should register as Republicans for primary battles in heavily Republican districts. Perhaps Democrats should openly support moderate Republicans who run for office. But one thing the crisis we face surely does not mean is complaining when Napolitano brings home a major victory at such a minor cost.