Landlords allow properties to deteriorate or simply abandon them because, they often say, it's too expensive to bring the buildings up to code.

But everything is relative. Their analysis is rooted in the fact that the law makes it possible for them to get away with extracting as much money as they can from properties before walking away. There is no inherent cost attached to blight.

That's why state Sen. David Argall, of Tamaqua, is on the right track with an idea to create what he calls a "slumlord tax."

Mr. Argall has not yet introduced the bill, but he has suggested that the revenue a tax would generate at the local level could be used to fund demolition and otherwise fight blighted properties.

Any such law would have to have a legally sustainable definition of what constitutes blight and of "slumlord," but the idea is worth pursuing. It, in effect, would establish a price on blight that landlords would have to consider against the costs of properly maintaining rental properties.

And it would add to a growing anti-blight arsenal, including a new law establishing "land banks" to acquire, clear and develop blighted property, and court appointment of conservators to take over properties from non-responsive landlords. Local municipal governments should use every tool in the toolbox to redevelop blighted neighborhoods.