Even though Pennsylvania has the most structurally deficient bridges of any state, more than 4,000, more miles of roads to maintain than all of New England and New York combined, and 14 struggling mass transit systems in need of dedicated funding, the state House has not been able to pass a transportation funding bill to take care of those problems.

Part of the reason is a disagreement on the merits. The Senate passed a bill that would increase transportation funding by $2.5 billion over five years but House Republicans believe that is too expensive. They don't want to lift a cap on the wholesale price of petroleum products that surely will produce higher gasoline prices at the pump. That's a legitimate policy debate.

But another problem, one that adversely affects many pieces of legislation and general governance, is insistence by lawmakers on misusing important bills as leverage.

This spring, for example, momentum towards passage of a transportation bill stalled when House Republicans attempted to tie it to an initiative to privatize the state liquor monopoly.

Democrats took their own turn this fall, attempting to tie transportation funding to greater funding for Philadelphia's stressed public schools.

All of those matters are important, so the temptation to use them as leverage as great. But the risk is that everything can stall.

Lawmakers should attend to the transportation bill and the other matters on their own merits.