As the calendar moves toward the Legislature’s June 15 deadline for passing a budget and the June 30 expiration of billions of dollars in temporary taxes, pressure is building on Democrats to cut a deal with Republicans, on mostly Republican terms.
Republican leaders have already said they would go along with calling a special election on the taxes if Democrats will accept a series of reform the GOP lawmakers are pushing.
If a handful of Republicans will also vote to extend the taxes from July 1 until Election Day, they will be able to extract maximum concessions from the Democrats.
But if June 30 comes and goes and there is still no deal, much of that Republican leverage will disappear.
Why? Because the Democrats are desperate right now. They know that their chances of getting the voters to extend the temporary taxes will plummet if those taxes expire June 30. If that happens, voters will be asked to raise taxes, not simply extend the status quo.
So it follows that in order to get the vote the want, Democrats are likely to concede a lot. The closer we get to June 30, the more likely they are to given in to Republican demands.
A spending cap that strictly limits growth in state government, pension reforms that give public employees retirement plans that mirror the private sector, and regulatory relief that imposes requires an economic review of all new rules could be approved or go on the ballot.
But if the Republicans refuse to extend the taxes until and election, or June 30 comes and goes without a deal, much of their leverage might disappear.
Sure, Democrats will still want to have an election, if that’s the only way they can extend the temporary taxes. But if the taxes have expired and Republicans won’t vote to reinstate them, then the Democrats will have far less reason to capitulate.
In politics as in all negotiations, you have to give something to get something.
Right now four Republicans merely have to vote to preserve the status quo until a special election is held.
At that election, it might even be possible for them to win approval of their measures while the tax extensions fail.
That seems like a pretty small price to pay for the potential enactment of changes they have been pushing for so many years.