For a moment, as Republican legislative leaders joined the Democratic governor to announce a hard-won budget framework, it looked as if Pennsylvania's divided government was working and even tackling difficult problems.
That was a few weeks ago, before a faction of GOP members who are too immature or incompetent to compromise began demanding more, threatening to derail a budget that was already woefully late. Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders now say the deal is back on track, but that will be hard to believe until a plan is passed.
There is no time left to play partisan games. The budget is five months overdue. Schools and charities are borrowing money, cutting services and workers, and even closing. Those legislators who don't understand the importance of their duty to pass a budget should be marginalized by those who do.
Wolf agreed to a framework that gave much to the Republican side. But it wasn't enough for some Republicans, who called for abolishing property taxes altogether without considering how the $12 billion revenue loss would be covered. Fortunately, the attempt failed in the Senate last week as it has failed several times before in the House. It was not only unrealistic but so ill-timed that it should not have been taken seriously.
The endangered budget framework has considerable strengths. Wolf and Republican leaders agreed to spend $400 million more for basic and special education, as well as additional funds for state universities and prekindergarten programs. That alone would be a major accomplishment in a state that has not adequately funded schools for years. The deal also promises to reduce the structural deficit threatening the state's financial stability.
Wolf gave up on the natural-gas extraction tax he rightly advocated as well as a hike in the state's modest income tax. Republicans instead agreed to raise the state's 6 percent sales tax to 7.25 percent, doubling Wolf's proposed increase and making the rate second only to California's.
Wolf also agreed to needed reforms of the state's liquor monopoly and employee pensions, going against interests that Democrats have protected. On the other hand, keeping Pennsylvania the only major gas-producing state without a severance tax was a regrettable capitulation to a favorite Republican interest. But that's what a deal looks like in a polarized state: Neither side loved it, but each got something it wanted.
Voters should take note of those legislators refusing to accept this reality. Their irresponsible tantrums show they're not up to a job that requires them to consider the needs of the entire state, not just its well-heeled and loudmouthed special interests.
As for those legislators who are up to the job, it's time for them to prove it.