EDITORIAL - Get to work: How about some budget labor in Harrisburg?

Written by Susan Mannella on .

This Labor Day weekend, hard-working Pennsylvanians are scratching their heads, wondering how members of the Legislature can show their faces in public.

Parents who rely on state programs for day care don't know whether they'll have a place to leave the little ones so they can do their jobs. Students who need tutoring don't know whether the help will come. Libraries don't know how many hours a week they'll be open. The list goes on because lawmakers have failed to complete their most important work of the year.

When a bare-bones budget created by Senate Republicans was passed and Gov. Ed Rendell chose to veto most funding lines rather than inflict such pain on schools, counties, hospitals and others, the task of working out a compromise fell to so-called legislative leaders, representing Democrats and Republicans from the House and Senate. The conference committee met for a paltry two hours on Tuesday, its first session in a month.

Truth be told, these budget deals are never worked out in public, so don't expect to see conferees sitting in open session, honestly debating the details. The real work goes on behind the scenes, but that can't happen unless both sides are willing to compromise.

Gov. Rendell has cut back on spending plans. He has backed off raising the personal income tax and imposing a natural gas extraction tax. There's been less movement by Senate Republicans, who now agree the state should tap its Rainy Day Fund but still say no to new taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco and an increase on cigarettes.

It's time for more movement by Republicans. Pennsylvanians have waited long enough.


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