LET'S CHECK IN on Harrisburg, also known as Lil' Washington on the Susquehanna.

You've noticed similarities, yes?

Democrat runs the executive branch, Republicans run the legislative branch and the tree not only produces no fruit but also appears to be dead.

Welcome to governing in modern times.

I'm not sure House Speaker John Boehner's stepping aside helps fix Washington, but some suggest House Speaker Mike Turzai's stepping aside might help fix Harrisburg.

OK, actually, that's just wishful thinking by Democrats who see Turzai as least likely among GOP leaders to compromise with Gov. Wolf in order to get a budget in place before, let's say, Christmas.

On the other hand, maybe any change in Harrisburg's hierarchy could move the budgetary needle, which is stuck in place for going on four months now.

What's new?

Well, yesterday Wolf, as promised, vetoed a GOP-passed plan to fund schools (including $466 million to Philly) and social services while budget talks drag on.

The guv's view is that temporary funding removes pressure to pass a full budget. He issued a statement citing "blatant obstruction by Republican leaders" as the reason we don't have one.

So it sounds as if everybody's getting along just fine.

Meanwhile, Democratic state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says school districts forced to borrow money to stay open during the impasse (Philly's in for $275 million so far) are running up interest charges and fees that could cost taxpayers an extra $11 million.

So there's that.

As to progress, Wolf, in an effort to move things along, cobbled together "reform" proposals on GOP priorities of pensions and booze to trade for a ton of new revenue to give to schools and to fight the deficit.

Wolf's booze plan puts liquor sales under private management but keeps clerks as state employees. Sort of a public/private partnership, I guess.

Hey, maybe Attorney General Kathleen Kane will reject this attempt at privatization as she did Gov. Tom Corbett's attempt to privatize the lottery.

Oh, wait, perhaps you need a law license to do that.

Pensions, under Wolf's plan, would become 401(k)-type benefits for new state employees and teachers making more than $75,000.

These ideas were not met with roaring cheers from the GOP.

In fact, there's some buzz suggesting to chuck everything except a new budget with some new spending because that might be all that can get done.

For even though the past few days included meetings twixt Wolf and Republican leaders amid indications of progress, it appears that on the fundamentals, the two sides still are far apart.

So is there movement or merely spinning?

"I don't get the sense positions are changing," says an integral player in budget talks who spoke on condition of anonymity, adding, "Do I see a breakthrough on the horizon? No."

The fundamentals are pretty simple: new taxes or revenue for lots of new spending or not. Wolf says yes, Republicans say not.

Some Democrats argue that tax increases are part of responsible governing, noting that every governor elected since the '70s - Milton Shapp, Dick Thornburgh, Bob Casey, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Tom Corbett - raised taxes (the argument is Corbett's fuels-tax hike for $2.3 billion in road and bridge repairs counts).

But Republicans say maybe that's the problem. Maybe the state's economy would be better with lower taxes.

Nate Benefield, of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, makes the case against raising taxes: "Overall, our tax burden has gone up, and yet we have stagnant growth, among the slowest in the country."

Pennsylvania's ranking in state and local tax burden, according to the respected D.C.-based Tax Foundation, is 10th heaviest among states and third heaviest among the most populous states, behind New York and California.

So there you have it: Harrisburg, like Washington, a capital city along a river where governing has gone adrift.

Email: baerj@phillynews.com

Blog: ph.ly/BaerGrowls

Columns: ph.ly/JohnBaer