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The Pa. budget and the games they play

If you’re wondering how the ongoing budget impasse is going, just think back to your childhood games.

Gov. Wolf set the stage for a stalemate when he vetoed a GOP budget. (GENE J. PUSKAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Gov. Wolf set the stage for a stalemate when he vetoed a GOP budget. (GENE J. PUSKAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS)Read moreAP

TO GET UP to date on your Legislature and the ongoing lack of an annual budget, just think of the kids' game "duck, duck, goose."

That's pretty much what Democratic Gov. Wolf and Republican lawmakers are playing.

Sitting in a circle, somebody, maybe Wolf, gets up and runs around tapping others calling out "duck" or "goose;" and if it's "goose" whoever's tapped gets up and chases, well, you get the idea.

Now, replace the words "duck" and "goose" with "pensions" or "liquor" or "natural gas tax" or more for "education" and you've got the picture.

We're eight weeks past the deadline for the only thing lawmakers have to do, and Pennsylvania's one of only two states with no budget.

The other is Illinois, and it's probably just coincidental the two states that can't getter done are arguably the nation's most politically corrupt.

You don't think elected officials operating in partisan cultures where corruption thrives are less inclined to act in concert for the greater good, do you?

Yet here we are.

Maybe part of the problem is new guys.

I say "guys" because in Pennsylvania no woman ever is elected governor, no women hold top leadership or appropriations spots in the House or Senate and the percentage of women lawmakers, 18 percent, ranks us near the bottom of states.

But I digress.

Wolf is new to his job. Three of the top four GOP honchos - Speaker Mike Turzai, House Leader Dave Reed, Senate Leader Jake Corman - are new to theirs.

First years in high posts are critical, so all four are no doubt under more pressure to hold to their truths and deliver for constituencies than a more seasoned group might be.

Or, put another way, less likely to compromise.

So when Wolf unhesitatingly vetoed a GOP budget because it didn't significantly increase education funding, then vetoed liquor privatizing then vetoed pension reform, the stage was set for stalemate.

Republicans all along said they won't support new broad-based taxes for anything and continue to say "no" to big new school-funding without pension and liquor reforms.

So, yesterday the kids at play interrupted summer break and took to the House floor (and, by the way, they thank you for picking up another round of per diem expenses).

Why? To fight over Republican efforts to override portions of the vetoed budget such as funding for rape crisis centers.

This, despite overriding line items in a bill that wasn't line-item vetoed but vetoed in its entirety, appears to be unconstitutional, and despite the fact Republicans didn't have the votes to do so.


Here's a sample of the high-minded debate:

Wolf is holding rape-crisis centers hostage. Republicans' new-found interest in human services is really about embarrassing Democrats.

There was some yelling back and forth over perceived personal slights and who likes rape crises centers more.

Democratic Leader Frank Dermody called the override attempt a "political stunt," moved to adjourn and suggested walking to Wolf's office to resume budget talks.

Oh, but GOP Leader Reed said Wolf declined to meet and was instead en route to Pittsburgh for a panel on global university and business partnerships.

Neither noted there was a budget meeting earlier yesterday and another set for today, not that anything's coming from such meetings.

As Republican appropriations boss Bill Adolph said, "The end is not near."

Yapping went on into the evening over vetoed spending for domestic violence, college grants, school food services and more, all with the same results - not enough votes.

It was a floor show. Such shows are easy but "duck" responsibility by failing to "goose" the budget process or provide any semblance of serious leadership.

Really, they're all just flocking around.