Winning — by Roby Brock

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 155 views 

The budget battle at the state capitol had some of the fireworks that several of us thought it would.

After Gov. Mike Beebe (D) introduced his $4.72 billion balanced budget proposal, Republican leaders offered a counter-plan that was effectively $21 million lower.

No dice.

Beebe said he couldn't go further than about $678,000 in additional cuts "with a clear conscience."

Arkansas Republicans have their fall campaign issue — rooting out waste in state government — even if they don't succeed in getting another nickel cut from the budget proposal. They'll actually couple that message with voter sentiments opposed to Pres. Obama, who will sit at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Between now and November, it won't be hard to find example after example of an inefficient state government agency. Remember last year's never-ending state vehicle controversy? The recent Forestry Commission debacle is further proof. Every time a hidey-hole of money is unearthed or a program botches its mission, it will raise questions about the management of state government.

Beebe and Arkansas Democrats will be blamed by Republicans at every turn in this year's heated election year rhetoric. They are, after all, the party in power.

The whole debate offers insight into a major paradigm shift occurring in Arkansas politics: Republicans are now big enough to have influence.

I don't hold out much hope that we'll be any better at the state level with this two-party government concept than they are in Washington, D.C.

It's really not possible in this era of rapid communication and high-stakes political power
we now live in. The echo chambers on both sides bombard those of us in the media daily with their spin in an effort to get stories written bringing their point-of-view to light. Often, it is legitimate; other times, it denigrates quickly into laughable.

Here's why I fear we're headed toward the strident gridlock in Arkansas that we see in the nation's capitol.

Name the last time an Arkansas Democrat held a press conference to congratulate a Republican for an idea or accomplishment. Name an instance in recent memory when Arkansas Republicans complimented the Democrats' management of an important issue.

You're hard-pressed, aren't you?

Ask yourself this: Can Democrats and Republicans in Arkansas compromise and trust each other any more than they do in D.C.?

I can't "with a clear conscience" say yes. We'll have our moments — and they'll be rare — but each side wants to own the majority now and they'll pull out all the stops, within reason, to succeed.

And that makes me sad. Because as a citizen who witnesses the political process closely, I just want state government to work.

I don't care who's winning.