Saturday, May 20, 2006

TEL: I’m Not Dead Yet

What could be worse for Blackwell than killing off the centerpiece of his agenda? Admitting he needs to kill it, but being unable to.

As I noted earlier, it’s not at all clear that even the TEL issue committee can get it off the ballot. Now doubts about the deal itself are surfacing:

Gov. Bob Taft, who would be required to sign any legislation passed, won’t
evaluate the proposed spending law until he gets a written commitment from the
TEL issue committee that it will withdraw the amendment from the November
ballot, Jon Allison, Taft’s chief of staff, said yesterday.
* * *
Akron businessman David Brennan, a member of the committee that put the amendment on the ballot, said yesterday that he would be reluctant to seek its removal without assurances that legislation would achieve the same goals.

But Brennan conceded that the portion of the amendment limiting local government
spending "has become a liability to the issue."

Bob Taft can certainly think of worse outcomes than no BabyTEL and a big TEL millstone hanging around J. Ken’s neck through the campaign. Taft and Blackwell weren’t friends even before J.Ken started running as if Taft were a Democratic incumbent.

What’s more, BabyTEL pretty much spells doom for Taft’s last-ditch attempt at a legacy – the Core bill. While a number of moderates have signed on based on the dubious promise that the money would be found somewhere, only a fool would think the State can take on an ambitious new education initiative with a 3.5 ceiling looming overhead.

The biggest line items in that part of the budget covered by BabyTEL are K-12, higher ed. and Medicaid. Cutting Medicaid is a double-whammy since the state can lose Federal dollars in the process. That leaves education.

What’s more, the BabyTEL drafters are reportedly talking about exempting Local Government Funds and property tax rollbacks from the law’s provisions. In other words, they are falling over themselves to make nice with local governments steamed over TEL, as well as cuts to Local Government in the last budget. I have to wonder if they are considering some version of TEL’s ban on unfunded mandates. That would render Core unfeasible legally, as well as politically.

All in all, the TEL deal has too many moving parts to be considered done. And I’m enjoying the thought of Blackwell flogging his other grand schemes on the trial while TEL stalks his campaign like a policy revenant.


redhorse said...

The potential reiterations of TEL throughout the next six months are Strickland manna.

I can't wait to watch him explain all this nonsense. I'm sure it will be some stunningly good victory for good government. Um, yeah.

Jill said...

Red - That's precisely the problem, though: "explain all this nonsense."

Nonsense is hard to explain in the first place - that's why it's called nonsense in the first place. I've read this stuff over and over and I have to tell you, no pun intended, on its face and in its implications (which aren't at all clear), the TEL is very hard to understand.

Does anyone - the ODP, Strickland, anyone else - have a clear, concise, layman's version of what it says and what it means - both objectively as well as from partisan perspectives (i.e., why X types would like it, why Y types won't)? Because that's what I feel like I need right now. That Blackwell promoted it is enough to make me not want it, of course. But if I want to explain to others why it's a problem in all forms, I need to understand it better.

Kyle said...

I took budgeting in the MPA program at The University of Akron this past semester. I asked my professor, who is the budget director for a county in NE Ohio, about what effect TEL would have on his job. He told me that in short, TEL will take budgetary power away from local governments and concentrate it in the governor's mansion. TEL will cap spending at 6%, but the governor has the power to grant exceptions. I don't know the details of how that works because I've been too busy to investigate, but I thought I would share that.

boringmadedull said...

Are you saying that Taft isn't a demcratic incumbent? Who knew?

redhorse said...

Jill: I wanted Blackwell to explain this to people. Specfically, why it was so important, yet not enough to really fight for it, even though he ripped Petro for not having strength in his convictions.

Each time TEL re-emerges as a campaign issue, I want Blackwell to tap dance all over that, and have Strickland there to point out the TEL flip-flop.

BMD, that's what Blackwell's been telling us!

Kyle, that's precisely how I understand it. And that's a good tack for Strickland to take: he wants to take away your local government's ability to manage itself. Few people want to lose local control like that.

Kyle said...


I agree. Something like "Ken Blackwell is really the candidate of big state government. We all know how that has worked the past 8 years."

Anonymous said...

I ended up here from the Carnival link to your site.

"I've read this stuff over and over and I have to tell you, no pun intended, on its face and in its implications (which aren't at all clear), the TEL is very hard to understand."

Yep, the Blackwell and Buckeye Institute TEL was very hard to understand. The version drafted by B/BI was like 2007['s Comprehensive Immigration reform: too many things in one amendment. Once folks got hold of the text, even us supporters of the TABOR concept had to bail on B/BI TEL Amendment.

A core problem in B/BI TEL was simply these few words: It capped State AND LOCAL expenditures.

The result would have been what Kyle said: "He told me that in short, TEL will take budgetary power away from local governments and concentrate it in the governor's mansion." The TEL paragraphs explained local taxes going up to the state and the locals having to get it back.

The BabyTEL got it right: limits ONLY STATE expenditure increases.

Similarly, TABOR only applies to State expenditures. If TABOR was so terrible, Coloradoans would have kill it entireley. Instead, they only took a 5-year break from it. The baseline for the TABOR calculation is floating temporarily, and a new baseline will be used at the end of the 5 years to limit future annual expenditure increases.

Pho, my compliments on your coverage. You wrote up Blackwell's political handling of the TEL better than any I've yet read. (As above shows, I like to focus on the text-to-policy parts rather than the political maneuvering.)
IMHO, BabyTEL is actually easy to explain; much easier than B/BI TEL. Blackwell lost the general campaign (well, my vote at least. I skipped voting in that race.) because Blackwell never made an effort to defend BabyTEL, aka Legis-TEL.