At least Gov. Wolf is acting like an adult. The same cannot be said of Republican legislators who passed the "garbage" budget that includes expenditures that Wolf says he will selectively veto. The governor plans to leave intact funding for schools and charities, which have suffered the most during the six-month budget impasse.
Wolf's words dripped with anger Tuesday as he discussed the budget stalemate, but he remained dignified in rejecting the "pretend" budget dumped on his desk by the Republican-led legislature last week.
Wolf plans to cut administrative spending by the legislature, but that tactic, employed by previous governors to force compromise, doesn't always work. Former Gov. Tom Corbett sliced the $5 million budgeted for lawmakers to park their taxpayer-financed cars in Harrisburg. That stung but didn't move indolent legislators.
Wolf's polite prodding suggests he is afraid of poisoning negotiations, but they're already toxic. Consider last week's bad-Santa maneuver by Republican leaders. A Senate compromise appeared close to getting procedural approval in the House until Speaker Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) and Majority Leader Dave Reed (R., Indiana) told members to go home before finishing the job.
Senate President Jake Corman (R., Centre) went along with the scheme, which resulted in the budget placed on Wolf's desk on Christmas Eve, which would effectively cut school funding and cause local governments to raise property taxes.
There has been one constant throughout the six-month stalemate: Republican legislators' insistence on retaining Pennsylvania's status as the only major shale-gas production state that doesn't impose a severance tax. Legislators claim they are holding the line on taxes, but their real concern is protecting the gas industry, which has been pumping cash into their campaign funds.
Legislators who say they are being fiscally responsible are proposing budget gimmicks such as not paying bills on time, which would deepen the deficit. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills can figure out the truth. That includes Wall Street, which by lowering the state's credit rating has increased the state's debt service costs.
It's hard to fathom why the budget stalemate continues. An acceptable deal that trimmed long-term pension expenses, restructured the state's liquor-store system, addressed the state's structural deficit, and invested in education appeared imminent. But the legislature hasn't had the leadership needed to cross the goal line.
Wolf urged legislators to return to Harrisburg to finish the job. "Our legislators - the folks we elected to serve us - need to own up to this. They need to do their jobs," he said. The governor is right. Legislators shouldn't show up in their districts until they pass a realistic budget that matches taxes with spending.