Budget Hostage Strategy Loses Steam for GOP

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Here's an item that some media organizations were reporting as news this past week: California's legislative Republicans made great show of boycotting a Senate budget hearing Thursday because Democrats did not make their budget plans public.

If Democrats will not give them time to read the bills, Republicans refuse to vote on the budget.

Just like every other year.

There are enough GOP crocodile tears here to make up for the water shortage in the next drought.

Few Republican lawmakers have ever voted for a budget in California. Indeed, the party's strategy has long been to hold up the budget by refusing to consider it or vote for it.

The goal was to create a hostage situation, where Democrats and the governor had to buy the handful of GOP votes necessary to pass the budget with some policy change or bit of funding necessary to the hostage takers.

But this GOP strategy doesn't work as well anymore -- because, in 2010, voters eliminated the rule that 2/3 of both houses of the legislature must approve a budget. That meant that the majority Democrats no longer need the Republicans, and so Republicans no longer had the leverage necessary to take hostages.

But apparently, word of this change has not reached legislative Republicans, who are still laboring under the delusion that what they think about the budget matters.

It doesn't.

Indeed, legislative Republicans would be wise to stop whining and boycotting -- and start engaging. The party should offer constructive ideas for the budget (not the political documents that the party has touted as its budget alternative) -- even if Republican lawmakers have no intention of voting for the budget. If you can't be relevant politically, try to be relevant by being helpful.

But Republicans aren't engaging like that. And they aren't pushing for deep reforms of the broken governance system. So, effectively, they are further marginalizing themselves.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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