Pennsylvania’s legislators are gearing up for re-election. In fact, they’ve reached full pander mode.

During a session when the top concern was supposed to be local tax reform and exploration of ways to reduce property taxes, lawmakers last week took the easy way out.

A serious discussion about reducing property taxes inevitably leads to consideration about boosting other levies. Common sense says that simply cutting a tax — without identifying another source of revenue — is foolish.

But no one ever said Harrisburg had a surplus of common sense.

In a flurry of activity designed to sell themselves to voters later this year, House lawmakers moved to reduce assorted state taxes by about $2 billion. This includes reductions in the state income tax, something that’s likely to rise if property taxes are cut.

But in the course of agreeing to cut taxes, House members declined to explain how this would happen. No other taxes were increased to offset the loss of revenue. And no spending reductions were offered to keep the state budget in balance.

This isn’t serious legislation. It’s a gimmick intended to give lawmakers the opportunity to tell Pennsylvanians they voted to cut their taxes. That they did so with absolutely no expectation of doing any such thing will be conveniently overlooked.

The measure now moves on to the Senate, where it will die an ignominious death.

One might hope that citizens would react strongly to such gimmicks. A taxpayer backlash is probably what it will take to convince lawmakers to focus on real work, and drop the tap-dance routines.

Meanwhile, any action related to property tax reform remains in limbo. For more years than we care to recall, Pennsylvania lawmakers have fumbled around with the notion of restructuring the tax system used to fund public schools. Other than a slice of slot machine money, they have precious little to show for it.

And all the while, the ratio of school costs covered by the state gradually declined — as mandates from Harrisburg grew.

Using state income and/or sales taxes to pick up a bigger piece of the public school tab is essential to any meaningful local tax reform plan. And there ought to be a meaningful examination of ways to control education costs.

But when it comes to Pennsylvania’s Legislature, meaningful isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind.

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