Gov. Wolf and the legislature have dithered and bickered about the state budget for so long that in just a few weeks, it will be time for the governor to deliver a budget address - for the next fiscal year. The record-breaking six-month deadlock has deprived schools, charities, and more of state funding. With increasingly pressing needs at this late date, Wolf has to shake up the stalled negotiations.
The Democratic governor does not have to abandon his principled stand for responsible education funding, but he should increase the pressure on those who are delaying a budget that is already outrageously late. That includes a Republican-controlled legislature gripped by a radical minority.
Wolf should sign the woefully inadequate budget legislators sent him last week to allow needed state payments to proceed. But he should block spending on the legislature and governor's office until a responsible compromise budget is reached. Some officials have failed more miserably than others in this crisis, but many share the blame. Now it's time for them to share the pain.
Schools and charities are becoming less able to serve the state's children and needy, having laid off staff and cut programs. The longer the stalemate lasts, the more severe the cuts and closings will be for Pennsylvania's most vulnerable. That is why those who are responsible should face further motivation in the form of missed paychecks until the budget job is done.
Punishing only one side of the standoff would risk making the situation worse. Applying pressure to both could have the effect of one of those team-building wilderness experiences in which the only way out of the woods is to work together.
The governor was right to call for more education funding and fiscal responsibility: Pennsylvania is behind most states on both counts. Republicans, meanwhile, were right to call for reforms of the state's employee pensions and liquor monopoly. Sadly, the governor's agreement to address those GOP priorities - while also allowing the legislature to protect the gas industry from the sort of tax that every other major energy state imposes - wasn't enough to get a deal done. Voters should remember that during the coming elections.
Since the compromise framework, which relied on higher sales taxes, has fallen apart, Wolf's proposed gas and income tax increases should be back on the table. In the absence of a broader agreement, they remain preferable to a regressive sales tax hike.