TO BEGIN WITH, the budget the Republican Legislature passed last week and left on the governor's desk was as phony as a three-dollar bill.

The $30.3 billion budget pretended to be balanced, but it was not. It exceeded available revenue by $300 million.

It pretended to fund all vital state services, but it did not. The Legislature sort of forgot to include $550 million in state support for Temple, Pitt and Penn State.

The budget pretended to increase state funding for education, but it did not. It added more money to the basic education subsidy, while taking away a $304 million item to help school district's pay construction and repair bills. The net result is that the state's districts would get a cut in state aid.

It's no wonder Gov. Wolf, in vetoing a big chunk of the budget bill, called it "garbage."

In dealing with the stinky pile left on his desk, Wolf did the wise thing. He used his power of the line-item veto. His cuts totaled nearly $7 billion.

He sliced state's basic education subsidy and its Medicaid subsidy nearly in half - giving enough to pay for the first six months of the fiscal year (which began July 1), but not enough for the rest of the year. He did the same for state prisons.

This was designed to force the Legislature to deal with the remaining unresolved issues - money to fund state government in total and the tax increases to pay for them.

For those whose heads are spinning because of all the back and forth on the budget, here is a quick summary: Wolf proposed a budget that greatly increased state aid to education and proposed to raise some taxes and lower others to pay for the new aid.

The Republicans, who control the House and Senate, refused to consider it. A stalemate ensued that lasted five months. At last, Wolf and Senate leaders reached a "half-a-loaf" compromise - where he got a $350 million increase for education, but backed off on the level of taxes.

Originally, House leaders agreed to the compromise. Then they balked. There was a corps of Republican members who would not supply tax votes - not a majority, but enough to stymie any progress.

Close to Christmas, the Senate threw up its hands, passed a House version of the budget and the Legislature left for the holidays.

In a nutshell, the problem is that there is a group of hard-right Republican legislators who would rather see government stopped in its tracks than solve its fundamental, longstanding problem: its expenses exceed its revenues.

Under Tom Corbett, they tried every gimmick possible to avoid higher taxes, but didn't have the discipline or political will to curb spending.

If you took home $35,000 a year from your job, but spent $50,000 a year, sooner or later, the folly of your actions will catch up with you. The same can be said of Pennsylvania.

What we've been living through the last six months is not only the playing out of philosophical differences, but a collapse of the political process. The Republicans have leaders who won't lead and followers who won't follow. The result? The garbage the governor vetoed yesterday.

It's time - at long last - to stop this nonsense and move forward with a compromise that will end this fiasco.