Nearly 800,000 Pennsylvania voters already have mailed or personally delivered their ballots for the Nov. 3 general election, but they’re not the only ones mailing it in.

All House seats and half of the state’s 50 Senate seats are on the ballot. By delaying resolution of the state budget until after the Nov. 3 election, legislators not only have escaped judgment by the nearly 800,000 Pennsylvanians who already have voted, but by millions more voters who will do so by the time the polls close.

The lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf passed a partial, $25 billion-plus budget in May, well ahead of the July 1 start to the new fiscal year — the traditional date for implementing a new budget.

According to legislative leaders, uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impact made it impossible to pass a full-year budget. That’s a fair assessment. The loss in sales tax and decreased corporate and personal income tax revenue now is expected to create a deficit of up to $5.5 billion.

Safe from wrath of votersThat does not explain, however, why the legislators chose to enact the rest of the budget as lame ducks rather than as lawmakers who are accountable to the public on the eve of an impending election. They could have chosen the end of October as the deadline for a complete budget but chose Nov. 30. That put them beyond the reach of voters for nearly two full years until the next legislative elections.

Republican majorities in both houses have been highly critical of Wolf’s handling of the pandemic, especially regarding transparency. Refusing to tackle the budget prior to the election just proves that such talk is cheap. Declining to share with voters their ideas for handling the economic crisis until after the election is the opposite of transparency that should, by itself, offer instruction to the rapidly declining number of voters who have not yet cast their ballots.

-Scranton Times-Tribune

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