The Arkansas legislature – particularly the House – is currently locked in a budget battle.
The short story is the Republicans, in the robust minority of 46 members, are pushing back against the budget submitted by Gov. Beebe and supported by the Democratic majority party, with 54 House members. The GOP is looking to cut an additional $21 million in spending next year from 11 state agencies.
But an interesting text message was forwarded to the Tolbert Report on Monday that may tip off the Democrats’ strategy. In short, they’re not giving an inch. The message was sent from Speaker Robert Moore’s cell phone to what he thought was Gov. Beebe’s chief of staff, Morril Harriman. The Tolbert Report has verified this with the Speaker.
Anyway, here is the text:
(may have already received this. Not sure on other # I have for u.) Below fyi from dem caucus mbrs. Frustration abounds but whatever play qb gov wants to run dems r going to execute. Enjoying wkend at new homestead n ar city! Have fun. C u mon. Robert
Hearing from members …. They don’t want budget amended. They don’t want JB to get any leverage out of this. If Gov finds 1 m they will say DFA should have found it earlier and they will play it as poor budgeting. Want us to stay firm with JBC RSA. Thanks.
A bit of translation on this for those you don’t speak in text. In the first message sent last Saturday morning, Moore was explaining that Democratic members of the House were frustrated but “whatever play the (quarterback) Gov. (Beebe) wants to run (Democrats) (are) going to execute.” He then jokes about his “new” homestead in his district in Arkansas City instead of Little Rock. (background here.)
The second text message sent later that morning, Speaker Moore explains that the Democratic House members “don’t want the budget amended.” Why? “They don’t want (Minority Leader John Burris) to get any leverage out of this.” They don’t want to even give $1 million in cuts.
“You are correct,” said Speaker Moore Monday evening when asked if this text message was from him and intended for the governor’s chief of staff. “This was a text sent to me by a member of the Democratic Caucus that I was passing along to the Governor for his information as we continue deliberations on the budget. Not surprisingly I think, it reflects the Dems strong support for the Gov.’s balanced budget proposal.”
This text message is a candid look at the conversations that have floated around from Democrats in the state legislature this weekend. It is apparent that the issue for them is not ‘Are the budget cuts responsible?’ but rather “Will giving in on the budget cuts give the Republicans an advantage in the 2012 elections?’
Gonna be a long week.