Senate Democrats threaten to derail budget, part II

As he does about this time each year, Sen. Mark Obenshain has pulled together a cheat sheet on the budget amendments making their way through the House and Senate. As Obenshain notes, this is not an exhaustive list. But it is instructive, particularly the bottom lines.

The Senate’s amendments result in an “ending balance” of $15.4 million, with $76.5 million in new spending, while the House has an “ending balance” of $4.6 million with a net decrease in new spending of just over $71 million.

In short, there’s plenty of room for the budgeteers to fashion a deal.

Or perhaps not, if Senate Democrats get their way:

Democrats in the evenly divided Senate signaled Sunday that they will try to force another budget stalemate unless the General Assembly agrees to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

In back-to-back meetings Sunday, the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees approved a variety of amendments to the current two-year budget, covering raises for teachers and school staff, water-quality improvement projects and transportation.

The House panel adopted its proposed amendments unanimously. But the Senate’s plan met approval with a 10 to 5 vote along party lines. All five Democrats opposed the plan because the amendments did not include language to expand Medicaid.

Bringing the budget process to a halt this year won’t have nearly the same consequences as were threatened last year, when Senate Democrats threatened to prevent the adoption of a state budget over their lack of committee chairmanships. The reason is they just don’t have much leverage this time around:

Unlike last year — when the General Assembly was drawing up a two-year spending plan — a budget stalemate would not pose the threat of a government shutdown because legislators are working on amendments. If legislators do not come to an agreement, the state would keep operating under the budget approved last year.

The reason for their snit this time is, ostensibly, Medicaid expansion. But we all know their real beef is redistricting. The House will take that matter up at the last possible moment on Wednesday.