PEOPLE LIKE to to treat this year's budget fiasco in Harrisburg as the same-old-same-old, a typical partisan squabble where each side tries to score points over the other.
There are partisan games going on this year and passing any budget with tax increases is a nightmare.
This year is different, and not only because this particular budget fight has lasted into December. It is also different because it reveals the change in the culture in Harrisburg.
To oversimplify, there are two groups in the state capital - the politicians who believe in government and those who do not.
So far, the "Do Not's" have been in control of the process. Most are clustered in the Republican party.
Given the choice between higher taxes and a government shutdown, they would prefer a shutdown.
Most of them are tea party adherents who came to Harrisburg with a mission to get the government off people's back. They see taxation as a form of confiscation of private property. They see compromise as a form of treason.
There aren't many of these Do Not's in leadership (an exception is House Speaker Mike Turzai, who is King of the Do Not's), but as rank-and-file members they have power and influence beyond their numbers. They stick together and vote as a bloc and they are willing to run and finance candidates to oppose more centrist Republicans in party primaries. (The fact that they sometimes succeed in toppling incumbents only adds to their influence.)
The "Believers" aren't necessarily enamored by big government and taxes, but they recognize the importance of government in providing an array of services: aid to local schools, subsidies for social service agencies, road and bridge repair, to name a few. Seventy-two cents of every dollar that comes in as taxes to the state goes back to local governments and school districts.
The Believers can be partisan and even mean-spirited, but, at the end of the day, they believe in the mission of government. And they also believe that successful governance means compromise. As Mick Jagger reminds us: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime . . . you get what you need."
For most of Pennsylvania's history, the Believers have been in charge of the governor's office and the legislature. Now, their power is diluted. In the Republican caucuses, the leaders' control over their own members is weak. As leaders, they keep looking over their shoulders at the Do Not's in their caucuses, fearing their anger.
The Do Not's can't get anything done, but that's not really their agenda. They will settle for paralysis. And they have achieved that goal.
Most of what has happened in the last three weeks is the result of the Do Not's trying their best to stop a compromise from happening.
But, the Believers are getting antsy. They realize what will happen if a budget does not pass by the New Year - disaster at the local level. Yesterday, Capitolwire reported there may be a move afoot to oust Turzai.
And earlier this week, Sen. Jake Corman, the Senate Republican leader, said "Eventually we will be judged by our results. If you never get anything passed and signed, what good are you?"