This is the week: How much money will be spent in the FY2012 state budget?  The overall spending will be nearly the same or a little less. The real question may very well be “How much borrowed Chinese money will be in the budget?”

You may recall a few weeks ago, Senators Lembke, Nieves, Kraus and Schaaf filibustered the extension of unemployment benefits. They were doing the right thing and were being successful in stopping it. Then a “deal” was offered – stop the filibuster and we will cut 250 million borrowed Chinese dollars from a re-appropriations bill. They accepted and sat down on the unemployment bill.

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the aforementioned re-appropriations bill – without the $250 million reduction!  The Senate Aprops Chair said he didn’t make the deal and was not obliged to keep it. I’m guessing he is going to be upset when the senators keep their word to filibuster the bill.

The four senators are hopefully the vanguard of a coming awakening. For a very long time, Republicans have made a big deal of cutting government. And, indeed, the operational budget that must be passed by this Friday is a good step, but more can be done. Eliminating the re-appropriations bill spending would be a good start, especially as it relates to the borrowed Chinese dollars!

As a former budget chair, I can tell you that people like to talk about cutting but when you give them the chance, the rhetoric doesn’t match up with the action most of the time. The problem is universal and we see it on the national level as well – cut someone else’s program but not mine.  The result is you get surface cuts that may sound good but don’t accomplish long-term structural changes to spending.

It’s true that we didn’t get into this mess over night, and we will not get out of it over night either. Anyone with that expectation has watched too many Disney movies.

What we should expect, even demand, is a real plan from state and federal Republican majorities to make real budget changes. There can be no sacred cows, but the U.S. Constitution does provide that defense be an exceptionally high priority.

We cannot afford to wail away at federal spending only. It does affect state spending but only in the ways that the states allow it to in order to receive that “free” money. States need to get off the federal dole. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen over night, but unless and until the journey to end federal dictation in state budgets begins, it can never be completed.

Senators Lembke, Nieves, Kraus and Schaaf will need a lot of support this week. Call their offices List of Senators and let them know you are standing with them. Don’t make the call though if you are unwilling to see your pet line item be cut. Otherwise, you are part of the problem, not the solution!