Does Pennsylvania really need to pass a budget?
All of the rallies have failed to pressure lawmakers into compromise. And for many, life goes on untouched by a state budget that's 100 days late.
Two things are clear about Pennsylvania's broken state budget process:
Every proposed compromise has annoyed a new set of constituencies. And, the many rallies held to blast legislators over the lack of budget haven't produced much pressure.
On this, the 100th budget-less day for fiscal 2009-10, an ad hoc organization representing more than 80 nonprofits intends to try again, holding a rally at the Municipal Services Building near City Hall at noon. I doubt the message sent by these advocates for the elderly, children and the sick will launch lawmakers into action.
Pennsylvanians profess to be embarrassed that their state is the only one in the nation still without a budget. But embarrassment alone hasn't been enough to convince lawmakers to pass one.
The fact is the absence of a state budget has meant little to the daily lives of many Pennsylvania residents. Quite frankly, I've barely noticed the difference between a Pennsylvania with a budget and one without.
On a mid-July morning, I renewed my driver's license with unexpected ease. The photo license center had me in and out in five minutes.
In late September, I drove to Pittsburgh to attend the Group of 20 Summit, taking the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Save for several miles of "shovel-ready infrastructure" work, it was a painless, if long, trip.
This being anachronistic Pennsylvania, I had to go to a state store to buy a bottle of wine recently. The shelves were full. No inventory shortages for the Wine & Spirits shop.
Kids are in school. State police continue to patrol the highways. You can still visit most state parks. Gamblers keep dropping their cash into state-regulated slots parlors.
In short, there's been no disruption in here akin to California's issuing IOU's.
Gosh, if the state runs so well without a budget, who really needs one?
Well, we all do. I have a household budget that I've been trimming over the last year. Businesses cut their budgets heading into 2009. Nonprofit organizations have reacted to a decline in donations.
We've all adjusted to the financial reality created by a brutal recession. Either Pennsylvania lawmakers don't see that same reality or they refuse to adjust to it.