NINE MILLION DOLLARS: That's how much Range Resources made as profit in a single quarter this year from its gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Range Resources was one of the companies in the room during a cozy session with Gov. Rendell and members of the Legislature as they tried to agree on an extraction tax palatable to the gas industry. (Funny, we don't remember being invited to such a session last time Harrisburg discussed raising the sales tax.)

Rendell announced yesterday that after an agreement seemed to be in sight, the industry changed its mind, and the agreement fell apart. That means that the chances a tax will be passed before lawmakers go home to campaign for re-election are slim, despite their promise they would nail down the tax by Oct. 1.

That means that the state also kisses goodbye revenue that this year alone could have ranged from $20 million to $108 million.

Keep this in mind as you read the next two editorials. The failure to enact a tax creates the filling in what we can't help dubbing a despair sandwich:

No books

Philadelphia Reads works to have every child reading at or above grade level by the end of third grade. One of the most critical things they do is collect books for their Book Bank, which gives free books to teachers. That's crucial, since public school teachers often have to go into their own wallets to help supply their classrooms.

But the organization, and the Book Bank, has been hit hard by the recession, and unless the group can raise money fast, the bank will close. This would be a blow to the city: The Book Bank allows teachers to take up to 300 books at a time for their classrooms. The Bank is run largely by volunteers (they need more of those, too) but right now, they need money.

Their total operating budget is $107,298; they need $40,000 to avoid disaster.

That's a big part of their operating budget, although in relative terms, the amount is basically walking around money . . . if, that is you have a walking around budget. And we know at least one legislative body that has such a budget.

When Mayor Nutter threatened to close some libraries in the city because of budget woes, citizens charged back; those same citizens can now play a role in making sure kids have books. Make a donation (go online at www. http://www.phila.gov/philareads/ or send a check to Philadelphia Reads, 325 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA. 19106.

No food

The scarcity of books for kids is small potatoes given how many of them in Philadelphia don't have enough food.

Philadelphia's First Congressional District is the second-hungriest in the country, according to a recent study. This may not be all that surprising, since the district is also among the 10 poorest in the country. Childhood poverty in this district is at 40 percent.

Drexel University Professor Mariana Chilton is concerned with the issue, especially as hunger relates to brain development in children; undernourished children suffer critical developmental delays. This is devastating to academic performance. This problem became more evident after Chilton created the Witnesses to Hunger project, that encouraged women to document their struggles to feed their famileis.

(The Daily News ran some of those images; find them at http://www.philly.com/dailynews/gallery/Witnesses_to_hunger_gallery.html *