It took 101 days.

It shouldn't have taken any extra time.

Pennsylvania finally got a budget Friday after almost 3 1/2 months of wrangling by both parties.

Shame on state legislators for hanging the public out to dry for so long.

The impasse put a lot of state agencies, counties and school districts in peril because funding had been cut off.

"This is a day of relief, but it's not a day to pat ourselves on the back or celebrate," Speaker of the House Keith R. McCall, D-Carbon, said after the agreement was reached.

And his sentiments are shared by all taxpayers. Pennsylvania was the only state to go without a budget for such a long period of time.

It marks the seventh time in as many years that Pennsylvania has missed its budget deadline, all during the Governor Ed Rendell era. This was the longest and most painful.

It addition to the governor, all our state legislators must take responsibility in the long time it took to hammer out the budget. Unwillingness to compromise on both sides delayed the agreement.

The $27.8 billion budget doesn't have any broad-based tax increases, Rendell stated, and it doesn't make cuts to his priorities of education, health care or economic development.

We shall see.

It was wrong for our lawmakers to put the public through what they experienced. Many agencies that deal with children and families were left without funds and had to cut back on services. School districts were left in a bind, some even had to take out loans to bridge the gap until funding could be provided. It has been a tense, stressful time for many Pennsylvanians who rely on state funds to keep their operations functioning.

What needs to be done to assure that we will not have to experience another budget fiasco next year?

For one thing, lawmakers must quit playing politics and consider the impact such an impasse has on their constituents.

Whatever it takes, whether this means beginning the whole budget process earlier, or establishing bi-partisan committees to crunch figures earlier, another marathon budget process can't be tolerated.

Bob Urban [1]