On the eve of government shutdown, and with a historic duty to reform education financing, the Legislature yet again shuts out the public.
BY one important measure, the 2017 Legislature is already a failure.
For the second time in three years, budget negotiations have gone into triple overtime, to the brink of a government shutdown. Without a budget approved by both houses and signed by the governor, state government could shut down nonessential functions, starting Friday.
And the negotiations have made a mockery of public accountability — with negotiators withholding details of a historic education-funding plan and $43 billion-plus budget. With the deadline looming, and no draft made publicly available, it is impossible for the public to give meaningful input.
Leaders in the Democratic-led House and Republican-led Senate earnestly pledge to meet Thursday’s drop-dead deadline for a deal that averts widespread furloughs, park closures and delay of benefit checks. Negotiators hint that a deal is imminent.
But that misses the point.
These secret negotiations leave hundreds of school districts in limbo, wondering if the closed-door deal making on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling will be a boon or bust for their budgets.
It leaves businesses wondering how the potential new taxes to meet the McCleary ruling impact them. It leaves advocacy groups — from foster kids to well-drillers to hospitals — who have been pacing the Capitol hallways, wondering if their months of work will fall off the table behind closed doors. It leaves journalists scant opportunity to shine their spotlights on crass political deals in the budget. And there will be some.
Lawmakers, this is no way to run a state. You need to find a radically different approach to negotiating. The governor, too, was once again too hands-off until too late in the negotiations.
There have been ideas, big and small, to tweak the process. But ultimately,…