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Try asking for forgiveness

October 27, 2005

The leadership of the Pennsylvania Legislature's Republican Party this week said that they'll concentrate on cutting property taxes instead of repealing a controversial pay raise.

It's a big gamble, because the property-tax issue has so far proved tougher than anticipated to resolve.

Under Gov. Ed Rendell's proposal, property taxes that support the state schools were supposed to be trimmed, in exchange for an increase in the state's income tax.

The hitch so far has been the reluctance of many local school boards to agree to a clause that would force them to take property tax increases above a certain amount to referendum.

That leaves lawmakers with some unappetizing alternatives. If they force school boards to go along, they upset community activists and risk being labeled anti-education.

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If they do nothing, then lawmakers take the chance that voters will focus on their raises, which they okayed at 2 a.m. July 7 with no debate. Even worse, some lawmakers used "unvouchered expenses" to evade the state constitution's ban on mid-term raises.

We suggest lawmakers humble themselves, admit they made an error on the pay issue and ask voters' forgiveness.

Their other choice is to hope they can resolve a tax issue that took the governor more than two years to get to this point. Fear of voters' wrath may spur action, but in our view, contrition is a better bet.

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