Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pomp & Circumstance... & Any Possibility of Real Solutions?

On the opening day of the 76th Legislature, lawmakers skipped the issues that will likely define the next 119 days in favor of friendly speeches about working together, commemorative photos with proud family members and symbolic gestures.

In their only significant legislative act, lawmakers voted to voluntarily cut their salaries for the session by 4.6 percent — the amount of pay state workers have done without this biennium because of furloughs.

Awww. So everyone's getting along? Yeah, right.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, called for civility to rule the day, adding that he and other Democrats agree with much of what Sandoval proposed in his $5.8 billion budget.

But then this: “Now it is the job of the Legislature to determine if the sacrifices placed in the scales to balance the budget can be sustained. Or, if they are too much to ask of Nevada’s citizens who have already lost so much in the recession.”

The message between the lines: Mr. Governor, we aren’t going to simply roll over and hand you the no-new-taxes budget you want, not when it cuts this deeply into education. [...]

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, also paid homage to the goal of working together. He noted that term limits had emptied the Legislature not only of important institutional knowledge, but also long-standing grudges that often impeded compromise.

But he had his own signals to send.

“Our constituents’ demands are very different than what the other side of the aisle is looking for,” he said shortly after delivering unscripted opening remarks on the Assembly floor, in which he said the state’s future prosperity depends on enacting meaningful reforms now.

What are he and his Republican colleagues looking for? Significant changes to the retirement benefits of public employees and a softening of the collective bargaining rights enjoyed by local government workers.

Already, it's looking like we have a hostage situation on our hands. State workers are public servants that, at times, are treated as indentured servants. They've been enduring pay cuts, furlough days, benefit cuts, and more... And now Goicoechea wants even more "punishment" cast on them?

And what is he willing to give in return?

While Republicans in both houses put out a statement last week supporting Sandoval’s cuts-only budget, Goicoechea implied his position is negotiable depending on the reforms Democrats agree to on those public employee issues.

“At this point, we support the governor’s budget and there are no tax increases in it,” he said.

He waited a beat and repeated: “At this point.” [Emphasis mine.]

Ah, so there it is. Goicoechea and a few other Republicans may allow our state to survive, after all... But only if we allow them to use state workers, the mentally ill, and perhaps a few more sick and starving kids as "collateral damage". Precious.

When did legislating become a political monster truck derby? This is just getting ridiculous.

Why can't more legislators just serve the constituents who voted them into office thinking they had our best interest at heart? You know, they're also supposed to be public servants.

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