The $30 billion budget the Pennsylvania legislature's ruling Republicans are catapulting through the Capitol is going to miss the mark. The plan dusts off one-shot gimmicks and a pledge of allegiance to gas drillers while offering no relief to property tax payers and ignoring the state's schoolchildren.
This bucket of bad ideas can hardly be seen as a serious proposal. One can only hope that Harrisburg's reckless tone will change after Gov. Wolf inevitably vetoes the proposal and the state slips past the budget deadline Wednesday. Maybe then negotiations will begin in earnest.
A late budget won't cause much harm for several weeks, but it could eventually affect the state's ability to pay its bills. Enacting the legislature's plan, however, would cost taxpayers more by lowering bond ratings and deepening the deficit.
The Democratic governor estimates that the proposal would increase the state's deficit to $3 billion by shifting spending to future years and pillaging funds for small businesses, veterans, the environment, economic development, education, and agriculture. While analysts call this a status quo budget, it's actually regressive, effectively robbing the state of a chance to grow.
Compromise is essential. Wolf has shown it's possible by relenting on his wrongheaded attempt to fire the state's open records czar and withdrawing his besieged nominee to head the state police. As his fellow Democrat Ed Rendell noted in a recent Inquirer op-ed, he should compromise further on pension reform and privatization of wine and liquor sales, which top the Republican agenda. Not only are both good policy, but giving ground on those issues would be a worthwhile trade for the most significant element of the governor's budget, which is equitable statewide education funding.
Schools in Philadelphia and other needy districts have suffered layoffs and program cuts as Pennsylvania has fallen short of its constitutional obligation to provide children with a "thorough and efficient" education. Communities that could afford to raise local property taxes have imposed greater burdens on their residents.
Republicans will have to give, too. They can no longer shirk their duty to enact a sound budget.
Wolf's proposal to impose a tax on gas drilling would put Pennsylvania in line with other major gas-producing states and raise needed revenue, though the governor should drop a price floor that would ignore market fluctuations. His plan to offset property taxes with sales and income tax increases is another logical area for compromise.