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Republican Governors Using Same Strategies for Budgets: Harming the Poor, Rewarding the Rich

The best thing about this PCCC ad is how the one protester says that “these issues are not unique to the state of Wisconsin, these are national issues. Money is being taken away from workers, and tax breaks given to major corporations.”

That’s certainly true. Wisconsin is a bellweather, but in no way unique. You’re starting to see that as other budgets get rolled out across the nation. In addition to the play to strip workers’ rights in Ohio by denying binding arbitration and putting them in jail if they strike (this should come to a vote in the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee today), there’s the budget from Maine Governor Paul LePage, which may be the worst yet:

In his budget that was released yesterday, the governor has unveiled a slew of tax cuts, cutbacks in public services, and the gutting of public employee benefits and pensions.

Included in the budget is a provision that would raise the retirement age of public workers from 62 to 65, cut Maine’s prescription drug and health coverage for working parents program, end $400 of property tax relief for more than 75,000 middle-income Maine households, and freeze cost of living adjustments for state employee retirees — which already provides a meager average pension of only $18,500 per year.

Yet at the same time, LePage is pushing through hundreds of millions of dollars of tax cuts. While most Mainers will receive a tax cut under the governor’s plan, the lion’s share of the cuts will go to the wealthiest of state residents. The Maine Center for Economic Policy notes that the average tax cut for most working families in Maine will be a measly $83, while upper income earners will take home an average of $874, and those who earn more than $363,438 — just one percent of the population of the state — will take home a whopping extra $2,770, on average.

This is practically a right-wing blueprint of their budget priorities. Across the country, Republican governors want to reduce health care costs by kicking the poor off the rolls or reducing prescription drug coverage. Basic health plans that go above Medicaid are being gutted. In addition, GOP governors want to increase retirement ages or shift into 401(k)-style plans for state worker pensions, which is a terrible idea based on incorrect fearmongering about pension shortfalls. And of course, there’s the attack on unions, about which Jim DeMint was refreshingly candid today, saying that “without the unions, the Democrat Party fades away.”

State budget shortfalls, a direct result of the financial crisis and the recession, were always going to be a problem. And Washington’s fiscal policy actively harmed this by putting in place a business tax cut that will expand state budget deficits by another $5 billion; this is also true of the estate tax cut in states that piggyback on federal tax law. But given these yawning deficits, there are smart ways to deal with it, like bulk purchasing. But solving the deficit isn’t the goal of these right-wing governors. It’s to benefit corporate interests, cripple the entities that fund and support their political enemies and shift wealth upwards from the poor to the rich. And they are trotting out policies that would do that.

This is the M.O. for GOP governance, a joke that has popped up the past few days:

A dozen cookies are put down in front of a C.E.O., a union member and a Tea Partier. The C.E.O. takes 11. Then he says to the Tea Partier, “That union guy wants yours.”

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Charles Koch in the WSJ

David Dayen

David Dayen