AS EXPECTED, Gov. Wolf this week vetoed the $30.2 billion budget passed by legislative Republicans, saying that it was filled with "gimmicks . . . smoke and mirrors and a lot of kick the can down the road."
That is a long string of clichés, but the governor was right.
The Republican budget balanced on paper, but did so by shortchanging public education and pillaging various state funds that were supposed to be dedicated to such things as school construction and child-welfare payments.
Come to think of it, the budget the Republicans sent Wolf this week very much resembled the ones they cobbled together during the Corbett administration, using the same devices. Republican leaders said that the virtue of their budget bill was that it passed before the fiscal year ended on June 30.
We'd like to remind them that during the Tom Corbett years, all the budgets passed on time as well, which proves that timing isn't everything. They were terrible plans that did great damage to state departments, public education and social-welfare programs.
The voters weren't impressed that state budgets were passed on or before June 30; they cared more about the substance of the budgets. They voted Corbett, an anti-tax Republican, out of office after one term.
Wolf won on the promise to change the direction of government and restore the state's role in funding public education - something voters consistently tell pollsters is the most important issue to them.
He has proposed increases in state sales and income taxes to bring in more money, part of it to increase funding for education and part to be used to lower local property taxes.
He also wants to tax the natural gas being extracted from the Marcellus Shale.
The Republicans - who control the House and the Senate - don't want any part of Wolf's plan. They don't want any new taxes and they want him to accept their bills to reform the state pension system (by making many new employees go into a 401k-like plan) and to greatly expand private liquor and wine sales. Wolf dislikes both ideas.
It's usually said that without a budget in place, government "shuts down." That is not correct. The state treasury has money. Salaries can be paid. Services will be delivered. It's more correct to say that without a budget, state government rolls to a stop. It will run out of money and the right to spend it, although not immediately. The problem will get worse later this month and in August.
Local governments and school districts, which are supposed to get state aid payments over the summer, will be hurt the most. Without these payments, they will have to borrow money to fill the gap, delay payments to vendors, cut back some programs and pray that Harrisburg will act.
Legislators who have lived through long budget impasses will tell you that it is a horrid experience, as pressure builds to come to a deal. But, many members of the House and Senate have never experienced it. For instance, nearly half of the 119-member House Republican caucus is either in their first or second term.
We're encouraged that Gov. Wolf is not inclined to cave to pressure and not afraid to use his veto power. He's signaled that he is willing to compromise, but he knows - and we should be aware - that getting to compromise is going to take time.
We think a good deal is worth the wait.