It's really hard to know whether anything Bev Perdue does right now is a good idea, because we simply have no idea what the political landscape's going to look like in 2012. So instead of taking a side, here are three reasons Perdue's machinations on the budget right now are savvy and three reasons they're suicide.
-The main reason Perdue's approval ratings are declining so much is a drop in support from Democrats. She needs to do something to make her base happy, and prioritizing teachers and education is a good one.
-She can take credit three years from now for bold leadership. You better believe there will be campaign ads where she talks about how she stood up for education at a time when folks were all too happy to raise class sizes, cut teacher pay, etc. It would give her a good opportunity to say that she focused her leadership on the big picture, and was visionary enough to realize that one bad budget year was not a good excuse to jeopardize our childrens' future, etc.
-She's maybe taking some heat off of Democratic legislators who have to run for reelection next year. If there is a big tax increase and Perdue makes herself the face of it and gets the blame from angry voters that might keep Democrats from losing control of the General Assembly next year. Obviously hikes can't happen without support from legislative Democrats but if voter perception is that the Governor is to blame for all of this it might be enough to get folks in some swing districts 'to love their legislator, hate their Governor.'
-You don't want Perdue and $1.5 billion in the same headline. Need I say more?
-As we pointed out earlier this week, voters are willing to support some tax increases, especially if they feel like by and large someone else will be footing the bill. That's the case with things like the cigarette tax and income tax increases for the very wealthy. But it's hard to put together a package of increases this large without it affecting almost every voter in the state on an individual basis. If families that are already struggling feel like the Governor is gouging them even more there will certainly be a political price to pay for that.
-The unfortunate reality of the financial picture has been such that Perdue has had little opportunity to grab the attention of the voters with anything positive, like new programs that would be popular or any other proactive measures. By putting herself out in front on this, she risks the only thing voters know her for is raising their taxes...if it was a situation where she had built up a reservoir of personal popularity from other aspects of the job she might be able to better weather this...but she hasn't, and it's reflected in her approval ratings.
We really won't know whether Perdue is being brilliant or shooting herself in the foot for about three more years.