Legislature winds up for sucker punch
Four days from now, state legislators will pack up their smoke and mirrors and return to their regular lives as dairy farmers, lawyers, etc. After another 45-day session of lawmaking, they will be able to rest easy knowing their job is, well, done.
On the other hand, cities, school districts, social service agencies and businesses will still be scrambling to figure out what passed and what failed in the last hours of the session. And once they see the list of bills that survived, they will have to pull out their fine-print reading glasses to see if the final draft still resembles the legislation that was originally proposed.
As of Friday, the Legislature had been in session for 41 days and, according to the state’s official Web site, had approved 206 new laws out of the 750 bills sponsored this year by the senators and representatives.
Some of the 750 were abandoned early on, others have been sent back to the drafting table for further study but plenty of the remaining 400 or so are still churning around in the system.
Also still in limbo is the fate of an approximate $1.6 billion budget surplus, wait let’s make sure we read that right, $1.6 BILLION, budget SURPLUS.
Somehow, every year, while squeezing education pennies and admonishing service agencies to tighten their belts, state legislators find a way to sweet talk their constituents into believing that thanks to their elected representatives fiscal wisdom there could be a juicy tax cut in their future.
And that is where our faith in those elected officials falters.
How can someone who has the power to reduce classroom overcrowding, beef up services for the disabled, increase funds for public safety or expand the state’s health insurance program for children consider that money a "surplus?"
What constituents would choose scrimping on education, health care, housing or the environment, in favor of a tax cut?
The answer is: those who stand to pay a lot less in taxes — corporations, utilities and other big business interests. And, of course, as we learned from Sen. Kevin Van Tassel’s post-election finance disclosures, that is exactly who helped put many of them in office.
Nevertheless, citizens still have until midnight Wednesday to lobby their elected representatives on many critical issues. And if the legislators are as independent from their contributors as they claim to be, they just might loosen those purse strings and put some much needed money back into the state coffers, where it belongs.
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Judy Horwitz writes in a guest editorial that Summit County voters must continue to support a vital source of funding for the area’s arts and culture institutions.