Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Party Of No

Today's Los Angeles Times has an article which exemplifies why it is important for voters to pay attention to races at the state and local levels. California's Republican state legislators continue to steamroller the majority by refusing any reasonable bill if their petty demands aren't met.

Republicans in the Senate blocked more than 20 bills -- all needing GOP votes to pass, many approved by the lower house with bipartisan or near-unanimous support -- to leverage a trio of unrelated demands. Chief among those was the elimination of a program that allowed mostly low-income Californians to have the state do their tax returns free, something the maker of TurboTax has been trying to achieve for years.

The other demands, which Democrats say they were willing to meet, were putting a Republican name on a popular bill and tweaking corporate tax breaks passed months ago.

Now, the main objection the Republicans voiced was that poor people should have to pay to have their tax returns prepared just like the wealthy do. After all, for the state to step in would cut into the profits of a segment of private enterprise, the greatest of all sins. The result? Some very important bills weren't passed in the Senate as the legislative session ended. They died.

Here are just a few of those DOA bills:

* A measure to ease borrowing for cities and counties. The state took $1.9 billion of their funds this summer and has three years to repay it. Municipalities hope to borrow from Wall Street to bridge the gap. The failure of SB 67, by the Senate budget committee, will cost cities and counties about $200 million more to do that, said Paul McIntosh, executive director of the California State Assn. of Counties. That makes more cuts to police and fire departments likely, he said.

* Federal money for the next swine flu outbreak. SB 769, by Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara), would have distributed federal funds to counties. Local agencies could now lose out on at least $42 million in newly allocated funds, and possibly tens of millions more in future grants, said Bruce Pomer, executive director of the Health Officers Assn. of California.

* A hospital fee to bring in more than $2 billion in federal funds for healthcare. ...

The measure that really punched me in the gut, however, was a plan to keep dozens of domestic-violence shelters from closing. It passed the Assembly unanimously, yet Republican state senators were miffed because the Democrats had promised to tweak a tax break for corporations a little further and to add a Republican name as sponsor to a very popular bill and hadn't yet followed through.

All of this sounds dreadfully familiar. Republicans in the US Congress have added yet more demands to the "bipartisan bill" Sen. Max Baucus promised to deliver which would save us all. In other words, Republicans have no intention of allowing health care reform in any meaningful way to pass. Why? Because they can.

As above, so below.

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