One argument you won’t read on this blog (unless Jake wants to make it) is that there’s something wrong with Tom Corbett tying revenue for services to passage of his political policy objectives.
Democrats are making this argument because they don’t like Tom Corbett’s political priorities on the merits, and they know that if they don’t get passed, it’s going to mean big cuts to stuff they like. There won’t be other tax increases to replace the education revenues Corbett has tied to the more political agenda items, the Republicans will just cut everything again. And that sucks!
But it sucks because being in the minority sucks. Democrats have no leverage to get their first or second best choices. They can either sit back and let the Republicans run the table, or they can engage and try to get the least-bad bum deal. If they had the majority, Democrats wouldn’t set up a choice between alcohol reform and more public education cuts, but they don’t have a majority in either chamber so they don’t have a say. That’s the choice on offer. They need to support the least-bad option, which clearly is alcohol reform, and avoiding more education cuts for 4 years while they’re trying to win back some political power.
If Democrats in Harrisburg do actually believe that revenues or spending shouldn’t ever be tied to passage of political priorities, and they’re not just complaining about the Governor’s proposals on the merits, then they are worse at politics than I thought.
“Washington-style” trades are the only hope for changing the political economy of some of the most entrenched problems. For instance, Governor Geeting would definitely hold spending on projects of importance to rural members hostage, contingent on ending the $2.9 billion in annual tax subsidies for fossil fuels. And I’d do it because that’s the only way those fossil fuel subsidies will ever go away. You can’t get that passed unless you set it up as a choice between ending the subsidies, or cutting something that a lot of members care about more than keeping the subsidies.
That Democrats don’t play the game this hard is why they’ve never been able to get the Delaware Loophole closed, or any of the rest of the $1.8 billion in weak claims and tax expenditures that take priority over education and human services every single year.