Rendell, Pennsy lawmakersneed a budget compromise

May 14, 2004

Pennsylvania legislators returned to the state capital this week after their primary election break to work on a state budget bill.

The Republican majority and Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell are about $20 million apart on the $22.7 billion spending plan. They should do their best to compromise on this last piece of the puzzle, to avoid a repeat of last year's standoff, which went on for months.

The deadline for approving a budget is June 30, so that the cash for the state's school districts will begin going out as the fiscal year begins on July 1.

It didn't happen that way last year, when a dispute over education policy delayed the delivery of state aid for months.


School districts were forced to borrow money to keep their doors open, an expense that should have been unnecessary.

Compromise should be easier this year because The Associated Press reports that the governor and lawmakers have already agreed on a program to spend $175 million in block grants to boost the state's reading and math scores.

But Rendell wanted more - $75 million more. He got it Monday, but it was cut back to $55 million Tuesday, when lawmakers shifted $20 million to private schools that serve severely disabled children.

To us, $55 million seems generous and we're inclined to agree with the argument made by some lawmakers, who say that it doesn't make sense to toss more money at the problem until there's some evidence that what's being spent already is making a difference.

It's time to split the difference, pass this budget and spare the state's school districts the agony they experienced last year. State officials need to do their part, then trust the schools to follow through.

Ehrlich's 'melting pot'

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich has a point when he says that America is a "melting pot" and that immigrants should learn English as part of that process. Just look at the Balkans to see what can happen when people cling to ethnic traditions to the detriment of the land they live in.

But however it was meant, Ehrlich's call for immigrants to assimilate into this nation's culture has been taken as a call for newcomers to reject their heritage.

That probably was not his intent, but to those who feel like they're outside the mainstream, it's been interpreted in that way.

Each generation of immigrants brings something new to America, points of view and traditions that change the culture. Those who don't want to see the culture change might as well try to hold back the tide, unless Congress takes the unlikely step of sealing the borders.

And frankly, if immigrants' input changes a culture that accepts vulgarity as entertainment, that doesn't recognize that the family is the cornerstone of society and that tolerates way too much violence, would that be such a bad thing?

It wouldn't, and the governor should clarify his remarks to let immigrants know that he doesn't expect them to forget the past to go forward in America.

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