The failure to pass a budget in Pennsylvania is a failure of leadership. For more than five months, legislators and Gov. Wolf have tossed proposals back and forth without coming to agreement on the same issues they faced when the governor introduced his budget in March.
Negotiation skills should be prerequisite for anyone who aspires to be a legislator. That's how you get the most for your constituents. But instead of negotiating an acceptable budget compromise, Pennsylvania legislators have been caught up in a sickening game of chicken that is making the public the biggest loser.
The situation is so bad that some Philadelphians are fondly looking back at how Vince Fumo used his legislative skills to broker compromises when he was a state senator, setting aside the fact that Fumo's craftiness was also what landed him in prison for corruption. That said, the absence of skilled negotiators is a big reason that the budget is overdue.
In fact, the House Republican caucus seems to be in a leadership crisis. The Senate and governor have finally agreed on a spending plan, but House leaders can't corral support for the compromise budget in their chamber. That's a breathtaking admission of failure. Leaders who can't lead aren't leaders; they're water carriers.
If House Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) and Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) can't present a unified message strong enough to earn the votes of the rank and file, then it's time for them to question whether they're the right people to hold leadership positions in Harrisburg. A conversation with their caucus on that topic is long overdue.
The entire Republican caucus needs to do some soul-searching and ask themselves whose interests they are actually representing by continuing to stonewall. How long are they going to ignore the shelters for battered women that have shut down their phone lines and closed their doors because their state funding has run out? Are they blind to the schools and charities in every district that are cutting back because there is no state budget?
Bucks County has stopped sending the state taxes it collects to Harrisburg. Other jurisdictions are mulling similar steps. They feel they have no choice given the sorry state of a central government with a legislature that appears incapable of fulfilling lawmakers' promises to faithfully represent the people.
In successful negotiations, each party gets something but not everything. The Senate compromise includes the additional funds for schools Wolf wants. Republicans would get pension plan changes and an end to Wolf's efforts to raise state income taxes and impose a shale tax. To demand more risks snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. It's time for House Republicans to get their act together and make a deal.