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Considering a traditional tenet of state government -- good intent, tardy execution -- it shouldn't be surprising that this year's back-to-school sales-tax holiday extends into the first week of school and the second week of the college year.

Chalk it up as a good idea that became yet another victim of a state budget process that missed its deadline by more than four months. By the time legislators approved a last-minute compromise on sales-tax elimination and sent permission to the counties, the Sept. 1-7 holiday was the best lawmakers could do.

With a total elimination of the state's portion of the sales tax targeted for next year, the timing of future back-to-school sales tax holidays -- applying to purchases of clothing or footwear under $500 -- may be a moot point.

But this year's was still an aggravation for parents who had wanted to get their school shopping done well before the school bells started ringing. Adjusting to new schedules and new routines is sufficiently difficult this time of year without an assist from legislators.

That said, the sales-tax break is a welcome one. As Erie County Legislature Chairman Charles M. Swanick noted, it's good for consumers, good for business and good for the economy -- even though he, too, would have prefered August shopping trips.

The Retail Council of New York State also is pleased with a back-to-school break, and notes that two previous "tax holidays" linked to school shopping proved extremely popular. While that popularity comes at the expense of tax revenues -- last January's tax-free week cost Erie County $260,000 and cost local schools, towns and the regional transit agency $275,000 -- it's a direct benefit for residents that also provides a needed boost for retail marketing.

Timing aside, this will be a good week to shop. Give the lawmakers a passing grade -- even if you do have to mark them tardy.

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