Two news stories caught my eye recently. One discussed how the Governor is cutting $5.5 million in State aid to school nutrition programs. The other discussed how the Governor is restoring $55.5 million in proposed budget cuts to prescription drug assistance programs for seniors. And I'm wondering why these two programs are being treated differently by our Governor.
Both budget cuts seem to be part and parcel of the Governor's overall agenda to shrink the size of government. Sure, I could make some point about how the nutrition program will disparately impact poor school districts where the schools are already struggling, and is probably another salvo in the Governor's war to privatize public schools. And that the prescription drug benefit goes to seniors who vote in higher numbers than the general population.
But in the end, I think this is just a story about political opportunism. Democrats in the Senate and Assembly said they would pass a millionaires' tax to pay for the prescription drug benefit. So the Governor restored the prescription drug benefit as a pre-cursor to vetoing the millionaires' tax. And since there was no political benefit to either the Democrats or the Republicans in haggling over the nutrition program, out it went.
But buried in the fine print of the Governor's plan to restore seniors' prescription drug benefits is an interesting fact. The Governor claims to finance the $55.5 million prescription drug benefit with $13 million in drug-rebate programs, $10.4 million in savings by greater use of generic drugs, $22.8 million in savings the State will realize as a result of expanded eligibility for federal health care programs, and $9.3 million in savings from a Medicare change.
Meaning -- wait for it -- Obamacare is providing about $32 million of the $55.5 million the Governor has cobbled together.
Why the Democrats won't highlight the fact that our small-government Governor is taking advantage of the very type of government expansion he has sworn to fight simply escapes me. What better evidence could you ask for that smaller government is not a panacea? What better evidence could you ask for that the Governor is vulnerable, that his philosophical purity goes right out the window when he has the chance to reward his benefactors with lower taxes?
For some reason, the only statement reported was Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver promising to raise taxes. And I'm sure Ms. Oliver sits up nights wondering how we got a Republican Governor in this blue state.