For some time now, it seemed to me the budget debate has been very professional. You would only get brief glimpses of frustration or passion. That changed on Wednesday when the governor spoke to the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce.
‘The next few days are very pivotal,’ he told the crowd. ‘We will decide between solvency and bankruptcy. Low taxes and high taxes. It’s not policy. It’s not opinion and it’s not point of view. It is arithmetic.’
He said Speaker Bauer gave us the Bauer budget.
‘They raided the teachers pension fund, they raided the next generation trust fund, they built a billion dollar cliff, wiped out all the reserves and will take us straight to a tax increase.’
Then later he added this gem.
‘We will not be blackmailed into bankruptcy and we will not be bullied into a tax increase on Hoosiers. I hope you agree.’
The crowd did not respond to an obvious applause line but he barely left time for them to react before he asked Democrats in the House to ‘summon the courage to do it in which case I will be the first on the scene to praise them for being willing to cross the boss on behalf of Hoosier taxpayers.’
He went on.
‘I refuse to believe that they really want to follow Bauer into bankruptcy.’
That wasn’t the governor’s only reference to Speaker Bauer as a political boss. This one came at the news conference following the speech.
‘He is the most powerful boss we have seen legislatively. No one crosses the boss.’
And the governor said the Senate’s contingency bill to fund state government in case the two sides can’t come to any agreement on the budget puts the blame squarely on the speaker’s shoulders.
‘It will be one hundred percent a Bauer shutdown and he won’t do that.’
The governor is taking this show on the road with stops in Terre Haute and Evansville Wednesday and stops in New Albany, Madison and Lawrenceburg on Thursday. Meanwhile, the budget conference committee will meet at the Statehouse on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
– Kevin Rader