Editorial: adopting a budget is the bare minimum

The best that can be said about the Pennsylvania Legislature’s decision on the budget is that it was quick.

That is, if you can call something quickly when it’s more than a week late.

On Thursday, seven days after the budget deadline, the House finally passed a spending plan with bipartisan support. On Friday, the Senate followed suit.

But that’s no reason to rejoice. It is the basement of responsibility as far as the government of the state is concerned.

Imagine that the legislators and the executive are school children. Based on the playground brawling behavior they sometimes exhibit, this shouldn’t be difficult.

If we were the parents of these kids, their report cards wouldn’t deserve a “My honor student goes to state government” bumper sticker. The best we could hope for would be a participation trophy.

We shouldn’t be happy that this year’s highly predictable budget battle has delayed government work by just a week. As a state of people who have to pay our bills on time or deal with the consequences of a power outage, disconnected phone, foreclosed homes or starving children, we should be furious that once the more our leaders have failed in the one task that they absolutely must do every year.

We should be equally angry that they had no problem adjusting to an unlimited supply of political posturing. There always seems to be time to stage a fight with the other side – or sometimes even with different factions within the same party.

Pennsylvania is the birthplace of American democracy. It is the nursery where the unique form of government we call our own was born with the Declaration of Independence and baptized with the Constitution of the United States. Pennsylvania has been a consistent leader on the national stage. Where the state leads, the country often follows.

It is therefore demoralizing to measure the success of this fundamental task not by the quality of its execution, but by the number or the few failures.

Yes, Harrisburg, you managed to not drag out the budget process to the point where school districts had to take out tax advance loans and libraries had to decide which days they would close because they couldn’t keep the doors open. Cheer. Here is your trophy.

Maybe next year there could be a budget that comes in time. But history tells us that we’re more likely to see another tantrum in the schoolyard instead.

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