It is true that Republican legislators have some valuable cards in the high stakes negotiation over adopting a spending plan and putting tax extensions on the ballot in June. Also true is that reality that the GOP leverage is fleeting and the Republican Caucuses could end up squandering their last and best chance to get some of the reforms that they and the business community covet.
Legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was famous for saying his teams stuck to the ground game because three things can happen when you throw a forward pass and two of them are bad. The GOP should be careful about throwing the long bomb, because they could end up scoreless.
What should be sobering to Republicans and the business community is the likelihood that Republicans will fall short of the one-third mark in both houses of the Legislature after the next election. The last reapportionment probably squeezed out every district possible for Republicans and the new lines drawn by the Commission or the courts are unlikely to do that. Some incumbent Democrats may find themselves displaced or challenged by Latino candidates, but the number of safe Democratic seats is probably going to be pretty stable. With the open primary and reconfigured districts, however, there may very well be many fewer safe GOP seats and several other that are up for grabs. This may be the last year to exact a price for allowing tax increases.
Even though Governor Brown has a lot of his prestige on the line in getting two-thirds approval for placing tax measures on the ballot in June and then passing them, if negotiations fall apart, Republicans are likely to come in for most of the blame if voters are denied the choice of whether to continue the temporary taxes.
The fiscal bloodbath resulting from rejection of the Brown plan would in all probability increase class sizes, shorten school years, padlock parks, close libraries, reduce police and fire services and much more. Public employee unions, who have money and muscle, would undoubtedly go the initiative route with measures to tax business and the rich to restore funding for popular programs.
It would be nice to get reasonable spending constraints, streamlined environmental regulations, tort reform and more business friendly policies as part of the package that allows the tax extensions to reach the ballot, but the GOP politicos would be wise not to overreach. Remember what happened when the Gingrich Congress shut down the Federal government? Half a loaf is better than none, especially when next year promises nothing but crumbs.
Politics is the art of the possible. John and Ken and Grover Norquist may not like it, but legislators are elected to govern.