AS THE STATE budget deadline looms, it's critical that Philadelphia-area lawmakers stand together and get approval from Harrisburg for Mayor Nutter's proposal to increase the local sales tax from 7 percent to 8 percent. No one likes to vote for raising taxes, but the consequences of inaction are worse.

The sales-tax boost would only apply to Philadelphia, but approval is needed from the entire Legislature. That means lawmakers from all over the state, many with little use for urban areas or taxes, will weigh in on the increase. To succeed in Harrisburg, the sales-tax hike will need full backing of Philadelphia's legislative delegation.

Already, two of our state representatives - Mike O'Brian and Brendan Boyle - have voiced opposition to the increase. Without increasing the sales tax, the city will be forced to drastically cut vital programs and lay off thousands of employees, including police officers and firefighters. The impact would be devastating and represent a major setback for our city. That is an outcome that no Philadelphian should want, including those elected to represent us in Harrisburg.

Local state officials should step up and fight for the least worst of the possible options. *