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July 27, 2009


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This plan may be worth considering, but the Legislature has more immediate things before it ... like next year's budget. Two of this plan's two biggest and most fervent supporters (Andy Dillon and Mike Bishop) -- and two people who'd make this happen -- were two of the three legs necessary to lead to that giant budget fiasco two years ago. They were basically in the same place two years ago that they are today, which means they're on track to craft a deal four hours past deadline everyone hates so badly they want to junk it immediately (if history is a guide, they'd ultimately get it done two months later -- in a giant rush -- with a new business tax surcharge that a lot of people think is worse than the original).

Now, in addition to filling a $1.7 billion hole, Dillon also wants to -- at the same time -- overhaul the health benefits for every public employee in this state. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he offered this idea right after the state Legislature returned from a two-week summer vacation they took with all this budget work unfinished and state universities hiking tuition based on projected numbers from the state. The words "credibility gap" spring easily to mind.

On top of preventing this from contributing to yet another budget fiasco, waiting two months also would provide a much better picture of how the health care debate will be shaped in Washington. Maybe Congress will get its act together and actually move to address a serious nationwide problem. Maybe the solution they eventually come up with presents opportunities that render the Dillon plan unnecessary. Probably not. Point is, waiting two months doesn't hurt, 'cause it's probably going to take the state Legislature that long to balance a budget this plan won't help fix (it could easily be a distraction, especially since it was Dillon who declared that this state Legislature can't balance the budget and ban workplace smoking at the same time).

Andy Dillon ought to be commended for offering an idea of substantive reform. He also ought to have his head examined for his timing in doing it.

P.S. You said that critics of this plan haven't offered their own ideas. I guess by most interpretations, I'd be considered a critic. Very well, over the last couple of months, I've suggested that the state consider reforming how services are provided at the local level. That's consolidating not just public safety and maybe even certain educational services, but even things like planning and zoning. Those wouldn't just save money, but would also assist local, multi-jurisdictional economic development efforts.

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