Crafty little buggers, those tooth fairies. Less than a year ago, they descended upon the state Capitol in the form of Republican legislators fighting Gov. Mike Foster's proposed tax increases. They tried to balance the state budget with cuts instead of tapping the taxpayers again.
Talk about fantasy!
At a minimum, they killed Gov. Warbucks' tax proposals, which didn't sit well with Old Ironhead. He called the tooth fairies out by name on his statewide radio talk show last spring, and he pulled out all the stops trying to hurt them politically.
By the end of last year, most of us thought we'd seen the last of the tooth fairies. But the New Year brought a new "fiscal crisis," and now they're back in even larger numbers. One of them is even impersonating Gov. Warbucks -- and another, Commissioner of Administration Mark Drennen.
Talk about impudence!
Several weeks ago, the Foster fairy and the Drennen fairy submitted a proposed operating budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. How do we know they were tooth fairies? Because only fairy-tale believers could have delivered that document with straight faces. The state constitution, you see, requires the governor to submit a balanced budget 45 days before the annual legislative session begins.
"Balanced" is hardly a word that could be attached to the budget they submitted.
At least, not by people who live in the real world.
For starters, the proposed $16-billion-plus budget is "balanced" with funds that currently don't exist. The document refers to those imaginary dollars as "contingent" revenues -- at least $344 million worth. Of that amount, $200 million might come from federal payments for which the state might be eligible -- but only after a yet-unnamed "consultant" (who has yet to be hired) locates them.
Another $74 million in fairy-tale dollars will come in the form of aid that might be provided by Congress in various bills that might be approved.
Sound far-fetched? Well, try to imagine a bunch of little green monkeys, which might be jumping out of my ...
But wait! There's more!
Other fantasies woven into the Foster fairy's budget include the idea of not funding or under-funding various crucial state functions. For example:
· Not paying any legal judgments against the state. Such judgments grow daily at the "judicial interest rate" until paid.
· Underestimating debt service, which could lead to a mid-year shortfall.
· Reducing payments against the "unfunded accrued liability" of the state's retirement systems, which collectively are a ticking fiscal time bomb.
· Underestimating or cutting the cost of incarcerating and caring for state and local prisoners.
· Not funding developmental centers for retarded citizens.
Critics of Gov. Warbucks roundly blasted him for proposing such a make-believe budget, but the Drennen fairy had a ready reply. "I only had a month to put this together," he said.
Lawmakers were incredulous. Several even insisted that the whole scenario "wasn't for real."
Perhaps they just don't believe in fairy tales. Then again, they should know better; some of their best colleagues are tooth fairies. Just ask Gov. Warbucks.
And what about the rest of us?
We get to vote for a whole new set of lawmakers -- and a new governor -- in the fall.
But, soon thereafter, look for the Foster fairy to call the current batch of legislators back into a special session to vote on tax increases.
Too bad all fairy tales don't end with everyone living happily ever after.
Oh, well. Perhaps we should try to look on the bright side. For years, the world has been saying that our political leaders are all crooks.
Now, at least, we can say that some of them are tooth fairies.