THE STATE BUDGET is nearing completion, but the stubborn question of whether Pennsylvania will impose an extraction tax or fee on gas drillers remains.

Charging gas companies is reasonable because their gas-removal process, known as hydrofracking or "fracking," carries environmental risk and infrastructure cost.

Tax opponents argue that the industry in Pennsylvania is still just a baby, and it would be foolish to stifle its growth. Gov. Corbett has asked lawmakers to wait until next month, after a commission on the Marcellus Shale returns a report, to start discussions.

But revelations in The New York Times this weekend drill a big fat hole in that argument.

The Times found evidence that forecasts about the productivity of natural gas wells have been overblown. Wells are running out sooner than expected, and the whole gas industry boom could be just another bubble.

If that's the case, delaying the imposition of a levy gives gas companies time to gobble up gas and get out of town, leaving Pennsylvania holding the bill for the impact of their work.

There's still time for state legislators to do right by their constituents, rather than a powerful industry. Alas, we're not optimistic. *