The state Capitol is set up to contain two very separate universes which revolve next to each other, passing material back and forth, the force of each tugging and pulling but both locked here together in the other's gravity.
Each day one committee breaks the division of the two universe model. The 20 of us meet in our early morning conference meeting and we laugh and tease and the great house-senate divide fades a bit to make us all just members of the Joint Committee.
Just yesterday, in spite of arm twisting, the Senate killed the House's hopes of denying state retirees a tiny raise this year from the state PERSI pension fund which has the ability to ensure seniors have enough income to participate in the economy and can afford the cost increases they face over time. We, the Senate, felt we did what was best for Seniors and the State's economy allowing the tiny raise. House members did not but still upstairs this morning the jibes were more humor than ire.
One floor down in the committee room, numbers become motions now. We are turning ideas for how to spend money into law. Each budget carries a number in parentheses. Those are the jobs we are removing from the budget. In a few cases they were already vacant positions, placeholders for a person already laid off or a position never re-filled, but the vast majority are real people's jobs, jobs which, as of July, will no longer exist. This is emotional for me, as is learning that we may have already priced people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in medications and that we could vote to do that on a far more grand scale next week, that we may well eliminate mental health treatment or substance abuse programs. I can't make these figures on the pretty colored pages stay as numbers only. It doesn't work for me.
So when our universes collide each morning, it is to me like watching the world of math meet the world of human faces. I see families in crisis facing longer lines and more uncaring government. It is not ok to me. It should not be ok to any of us.