Today marks another bad day for Pennsylvania:
Most of the state's 804,000 welfare recipients will miss their checks, nearly 108,000 state employees will begin a second week of payless paydays, and a dissension-riddled legislature will attempt to end the agony by coming up with a new, full-year budget - 39 days overdue.
Already, 2,000 state workers have been furloughed because of the budget impasse and other financial problems, and about 4,000 more are slated to be laid off by September.
In Philadelphia, the state's largest public school district, an estimated 9,000 public school workers have been laid off because the district - which is looking to the state for up to $80 million in aid - is $173 million in debt.
Pennsylvania has also been losing $55,000 a day in federal aid since Aug. 3, when an emergency, patchwork, $365 million state budget expired. It is a direct, unrecoverable loss, state officials said, adding that the state can't spend federal funds without a budget.
The root of the problem is politics - specifically a fear of raising taxes, say Democrats, who blame each other as well as the Republicans for the state's fiscal woes. Republican agree. But they quickly add the charge that things wouldn't be so bad if Pennsylvania's Democratic administration were not so "corrupt."
"The people of Pennsylvania do not want to put one more single tax dollar into a state government corrupted by a leaderless administration," contends House Ministry Leader Robert J. Butera.
"Only through reform and sacrifice will our state government ever earn the respect and trust of the people. Only then will we be able to resolve the terrible problems which beset us," says Butera, who is already an announced Republican for the governorship in the 1978 election.
Butera and his fellow Republicans usually follow up the corruption charge by rattling off a long list of Democrats who they say have been convicted, indicted or investigated during Gov. Milton J. Shapp's six years.
At the top of the list is Shapp himself, who is being investigated by the Federal Election Commission on allegations that several workers in his 1976 presidential campaign accepted some improper contributions.
THen there is former House Speaker Herbert Fineman, a Philadelphian and onetime Shapp politicalally, who was convicted May 20 on federal charges stemming from alleged influence peddling.
Fineman, 56, was regarded as the state's most powerful Democrat because of his ability to push bills through the legislature. Both Democrats and Republicans say his resignations May 21 is largely responsible for the state's present fiscal predicament.
"The indictment and eventual removal of Herb Fineman certainly hindered progress [on the budget] in the House," said K. Leory Irvis, Pittsburgh Democrat and new House Speaker.
During Fineman's legal battle, Irvis, then House Majority Leader, underwent surgery and was hospitalized.Irvis said his absence, coupled with Fineman's problems, left the budget in the hands of inexperienced legislatiors.
"Part of the problem is that we have so many new legislators in the House of Representatives. Six out of every 10 members in the House have never had to vote for taxes," Irvis said. The last tax increase was in 1971.
Democrats hold 116 of the 203 House seats, and 30 of 50 in the Senate. Buth both Irvis and Shapp say those majorities are meaningless in trying to push through a $5.4 billion budget that calls for $300 million in new taxes.
Shapp, who is a lame duck because Pennsylvania governors may not serve more than two terms, says his administration's credibility "has nothing to do" with the budget impasse. He said the problem is that rural and upstate Democrats oppose raising taxes to help their big-city Philadelphia brethren and that Republicans are "solidly opposed to raising taxes for any reason."
"The Republicans would like to create an image of fiscal irresponsibility in Pennsylvania for the 1978 elections. They're hoping that that will enable them to recover the governor's office," Shapp said.
In 1974, when Shapp was seeking reelection, taxes were reduced. But the winter of '76 slasher "hundreds of millions of dollars" from the state's economy, he said. Inflation has eaten away funds for public services. The state has a 7.8 per cent unemployment rate. "We have just run out of room," Shapp said.
Not so, says Thomas M. Nolan, a Pittsburgh-area Democrat who recently resigned as Senate Majority Leader in a budget dispute with his party's leadership.
Nolan says no new taxes are necessary and he is pushing for a "no tax" budget, against his party wishes, "because I cannot in good conscience continue to support a system which is eroding everything that the working man has fought for all his life."
Meanwhile, the state is withholding $13 million in payroll checks, $12 million in welfare checks and $16 million in payments for consultants and contractors because without a budget there is no money to back them up.
Speaker Irvis is disturbed but philosophical: "You know, in any democracy, you have a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of effort. One of the virtues of democratic government is incompetence."