The budget has gone through the house with the funding (HB2) as well. This was a painful experience for those involved in recommending the cuts; the cuts were many and deep in most circumstances. But we promised when we were campaigning that this would have to take place to take the pressure off of the huge deficit.
Did the house budget go too far or not far enough? That will be decided by the senate and the committee’s of conference if there is no agreement. The senate now has to look at the house budget and make changes if they deem necessary and send it back to the house. If the house disagrees then they will go to a committee of conference to see if they can work out the differences. If that is done then it will be up to the governor to veto, sign, or allow it to become law without his signature.
I do not believe we have ever seen so many people show to our hearings. Some of the hearings were so well attended that they were held in reps hall because of the 3-4 hundred people that showed up in protest.
When the finance committee voted on HB2 there was an estimated 4-6 hundred public sector employees in attendance. The room, hallways, stairwells and the LOB lobby was so packed you couldn’t move. Our security staff was totally overwhelmed; but, with few exceptions, the observers were behaved. It was requested that the hearing be moved to reps hall but that was denied. I had a problem with seeing pregnant women having to sit on a hard floor. Our chairman did the best he could; but, we just so overwhelmed any plans we had for security flew out the window.
Then on Thursday, the day we voted on the budget there was about 4,000 people showed up to protest not only the budget cuts; but, how the legislature went after our state employees. We had an increased presence of state police to help our security handle the crowd and, with a few exceptions, the crowd was behaved.
What caused all of this? We have had to make serious cuts in the past; it was the unprovoked attack on our public sector employees. The complaint is they make too much money and too many benefits; but, instead of negotiating with them on this issue, the legislature attacked them and kept it up with almost 3 months of legislative attacks by putting in anti public worker bills and amendments, attacking active duty employees, widows, retired and injured state employees. The legislature then kept referring to the employees as “thugs” and “goons”, etc, so they were villainizing anyone who disagreed with them. When you attack someone using your power who is the real thugs? Certainly not the ones attacked; but, the ones doing the attacking.
When you are dealing or want to deal with unions or public sector employees it is always smart to sit down and talk to them or negotiate with them, don’t come out of the clear blue and attack them.
There is about 70,000 votes in the public sector, and that can be multiplied by 2-5, depending on how many friends, family and relatives they have.
Somebody made a threatening phone call to the speaker and he now has state police protection. Threatening anyone is not always the smartest thing a person can do; but it only shows that this situation is getting out of control.
The voters, I thought,told us they wanted the budget (spending) cut and taxes reduced and job creation. In this process everyone knew that there would be layoffs and program reductions. What I don’t think they directed was the horrific attacks on our public employees, police, fire, and state workforce that started a war you didn’t want and cannot win. Anyone who goes out looking for a fight no one wanted and they can’t win, has misread the tea leaves.
This process has been mentally and physically draining and painful to everyone concerned.
We will see what the next election will bring; but, I don’t think all of this craziness will promote any kind of political agenda, except change.