This is the "progress" we've been waiting for on the state budget?
Senate Democrats agree to take their Healthy Wisconsin health care plan off the table, replacing it with a package to fund BadgerCare for children with a higher cigaret tax and assessment on hospitals.
And get nothing in return?
[Dem Leader Sen. Judy] Robson responded that at the very minimum, the Dems will require that all children in the state are covered with health insurance, and all childless families are eligible for BadgerCare. To pay for it, she said, the Dems will insist on the proposed $1.25 per pack cigarette tax increase.
[Republican Assembly Speaker Michael] Huebsch said he will accept their withdrawal of Healthy Wisconsin. "But I am offering you nothing in return," he said.
The last time I recall encountering that kind of attitude at the bargaining table, it led to a bitter strike that lasted two years.
As everyone's been clamoring for the Senate Dems to give up on their creative and far-reaching plan to insure everyone in Wisconsin, was the expectation that they'd just take Healthy Wisconsin, their biggest proposal, out of the budget and expect nothing in return?
State budgets are delicate balancing acts, carefully put together to be able to get majority support in both houses of the legislature. When there is a partisan split between the two houses, it is even harder to walk the tightrope to agreement.
If Senate Dems gave up their biggest item without any understanding about what would happen in return, it is a curious strategic move. And "curious" is a kind adjective.
Despite his public posturing, pretending there would be something wrong with making a deal or "trade" -- which happens all the time -- let's hope Huebsch intends to make some movement on his side of the table, too.
Maybe he feels he doesn't have to, since he somehow duped a number of Assembly Dems, including their alleged leader, into voting to pass one piece of the budget and leave the rest for later.
That's a clever attempt by the GOP to take off the pressure they're feeling from school districts and local governments, who need to know what's coming to them from the state and what they will need to raise locally.
But that pressure is what might actually force some compromise and agreement on a budget. Take away that incentive, and the GOP looks like it would be just as happy if the budget never passed and everything remained frozen at the current level.
Maybe there's some grand Democratic strategy in the Capitol that can't be discerned from 75 miles away.
I hope so, but I highly doubt it.