After a 36-day stay in Illinois, Indiana House Democrats came back tonight. And while they’re touting certain compromises the GOP made as proof that their standoff was successful, it’s not so clear they won much more than would have been achieved if they had never left the state.
“The only real concession is the right-to-work bill is dead,” says Mike O’Brien, a blogger at Capitol & Washington and a former legislative director for Gov. Mitch Daniels. “But that bill was declared dead 24 hours after the walkout began. The cap on vouchers, the limits on project labor agreements — those were all in play before the walkout began.”
“What Democrats did today is they took a bunch of compromises that were already in progress before the walkout and declared them the reason that the walkout ended,” O’Brien adds.
What might have swayed the Democrats return home: public opinion was against them. A poll released last week by the Indiana Republican party found that 66 percent of voters disapproved of the Democrats’ flight to Illinois.
Taxpayers may also have not been thrilled about the cost of the Democrats’ absence. Republican House speaker Brian Bosma estimated that the Democrats’ flight had cost taxpayers nearly $500,000, when lost time and salaries were taken into account.
In a statement, Indiana GOP party chair Eric Holcomb said that Indiana House Democrats now “need to stay.”
“Valuable time has already been lost on crucial legislative items important to Hoosier taxpayers and families,” Holcomb said.
Democratic minority leader Pat Bauer said in a statement that “the principled stand by House Democrats forced concessions by the House Republicans.”
O’Brien sees it differently. “At the end of this day,” he observes, “it cost taxpayers a heck of a lot of money and it lost time, but it didn’t cost Republicans anything in terms of a policy standpoint. The agenda is still the agenda.”