Jumping The Shark

The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis is a liberal think tank on fiscal issues in the Commonwealth. While we often disagree with their analysis and positions, they have finally jumped the proverbial shark. Today, the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis joined with healthcare advocacy groups and urged Governor McAuliffe to veto the budget. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch explained, the Institute's President“…acknowledged the importance of adopting a budget this month in the face of a potential $1.55 billion revenue shortfall, but he called on the Governor to force the General Assembly back to the table to reach a compromise…” that would expand Medicaid.

There are so many problems with this it is hard to know where to begin.

First, who is the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis? According to its website, it “…provides credible, independent and accessible information and analyses of fiscal and economic issues with particular attention to the impacts on low-and moderate-income persons.” Urging the Governor to veto the budget seems a step removed from simply providing “credible, independent and accessible information and analyses.” In fact, the Commonwealth Institute has chosen to destroy its credibility by taking a position and urging the veto of the budget.

Which brings us to our second issue with their position. How can an organization whose role and purpose is to provide economic and fiscal analysis, albeit with a liberal slant, believe it is necessary to risk a government shutdown, the Commonwealth's AAA bond rating, the ability of Virginia to access the rainy day fund and launch a constitutional crisis as sound economic and fiscal advice? Wouldn't a more rational approach for a group focused on fiscal and economic stability be to call for a special session on Medicaid after the budget is signed? After all, if the Governor vetoes the budget and the government shuts down, who is hurt the hardest? “[L]ow-and moderate-income persons” will feel the brunt of a government shutdown as many of the government benefits they receive would become inaccessible.

Third, you have to love their spin, veto the budget to force the General Assembly to compromise. Let's call a spade a spade. What the Commonwealth Institute really means is for the Governor veto the budget and force the Assembly to capitulate. The General Assembly has spoken loudly and clearly that it will not support Medicaid expansion this year. Any compromise that would permit expansion to occur would be capitulation. And even if the General Assembly were willing to consider capitulation (which it clearly is not), given the timeline and the procedural requirements, to call “capitulation and compromise” a path forward defies reason and logic.

It is very disappointing to see groups push the Governor to act in a manner that is foolhardy at best at the risk of a government shutdown that would destroy the Commonwealth's fiscal credibility. It is more disappointing when the organization pushing for such action claims to be focused on what is best economically for many Virginia residents.

Of course, if Governor McAuliffe follows the advice of the Commonwealth Institute, he can join them in jumping the shark. Of course, knowing Governor McAuliffe, he would likely use such a scene as a fundraiser for his PAC.