The budget tango is an endless dance in Harrisburg halls

They did the budget tango again in Harrisburg Monday – again. There was lobbying in every hall and rumors just as prevalent, but no budget deal. Uusually when that happens, a budget deal is not far off.

We say that from experience. This year’s episode is the latest in a long-running series.

For about two decades, the state budget has been produced in fits and starts. The governor proposes a spending plan that is too large, lawmakers try to fund it without traditional tax increases, and when they reduce the size of it they take a licking from everyone funded by the state budget.

No matter how this year’s budget waltz finishes, we hope lessons were learned a couple weeks ago when lawmakers looked hard to taking surplus revenue from a variety of accounts to close the $2.2 revenue gap between proposed revenues and expenses.

We have said for years that an examination of every line item in the state budget and all accounts would reveal that the annual spending plan is larger than it needs to be. After all, General Fund spending has gone up about 40 percent in the past two decades.

Next year’s budget work should begin in the winter with an examination of the practical need and size of each line item. We know it’s old school. We know it’s tedious. That’s probably why it works for the rest of society.

In the end, this year’s budget likely is going to be balanced with expansion of casino gambling and expansion of the sales tax and some tweaks to liquor sales rules. (Please, privatize the entire system next year).

The major spending items are going to be public education and salaries, benefits and pensions for state employees. None of this is news – just the details that are subject to the talking points of major special interests.

Pennsylvanians deserve a budget based on these tenets earlier than October.

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