Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

January 6, 2013

Legislature enters budget session with cash surplus

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana General Assembly starts its 2013 session Monday in some unfamiliar but welcome territory: Flush with more than $1 billion in new revenue to spend — plus $2 billion in reserves — while crafting the state’s two-year budget plan.

It’s an envious place to be, following a series of recession-era budget cycles that forced the Legislature and outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels to make some painful cuts in spending on education and other public services.

But don’t expect a spending spree.

While there are already plenty of ideas for how the extra money should be spent — including a call for a 7.5 percent increase for the state’s public universities and a cry from K-12 schools for more dollars — the budget gatekeepers are urging caution.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma, of Indianapolis, has been warning his fellow lawmakers that a sputtering economy means the “fiscal fog is thick” and a key budget gatekeeper, Senate appropriations chairman Luke Kenley, has vowed to maintain his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

“Lawmakers have worked hard in recent years to put our fiscal house in order, and we must continue down that path in 2013 ...,” said Kenley, R-Noblesville. “We want to continue to stimulate job growth while, at the same time, guarding against future economic instability.”

Meanwhile, the new House Ways and Means chairman, state Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, has said more money in the state coffers likely means a boost in funding for some programs that suffered past cuts. But without giving much detail, he’s also said they need to be “strategic restorations of what we’ve had to cut in the past.”

The most recent fiscal news is rosier than it’s been in more than five years. The state’s revenue forecast, released in December, predicts state government will receive more than $27.9 billion in taxes and other revenue sources over the next two years. That’s almost $1.3 billion more than the state took in during the past two years.

Much of that increased revenue is coming from state sales and income taxes. There has been a steady decline in gaming revenues, though. The November 2012 monthly revenue report showed Indiana casinos saw eight straight months declining revenue. It’s a trend not likely to be reversed as more casinos in the neighboring states of Illinois, Michigan and Ohio come on line.

The drop in gaming dollars may prompt Indiana lawmakers to reconsider some of the tight rules they’ve imposed on the state’s casino operations. State Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, has called for his fellow legislators to re-examine the number of gambling licenses it allows and the locations where gambling is allowed.

The Legislature has been averse to opening the state up to more gaming. But at a legislative preview conference late last year, the powerful state Senate president David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the Legislature needs to do something to reverse the drop in gambling revenues by making Indiana’s casinos more competitive.

One of the budget fights unfolding involves a campaign pledge made by Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence. His call for a 10 percent cut in personal income tax has met with resistance from legislative leaders of his own party.

If passed, it would mean about $500 million drop in revenues for the state. And it would come on the heels of two significant revenue cuts made last year by the Legislature: a reduction in the corporate income tax rate and a 10-year phase-out of Indiana’s inheritance tax.

Another big budget issue involves the state’s cost of implementing the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. There are some significant unknowns, including how much money the state will be obligated to pay as more Hoosiers are expected to be covered under Medicaid, a joint state and federal program that provides health care for the poor and disabled. The state spent more than $1.4 billion on Medicaid in fiscal year 2012. That amount is expected to rise to $2 billion by 2015.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

 


 

1
Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 2.00.42 PM.png VIDEO: Train collides with semi truck carrying lighter fluid

    A truck driver from Washington is fortunate to be alive after driving his semi onto a set of tracks near Somerset, Ky., and being struck by a locomotive, which ignited his load of charcoal lighter fluid.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.12.33 PM.png Gunshots narrowly miss TV reporter

    A reporter for a West Virginia television station narrowly escaped injury or worse Monday while covering a fatal weekend shooting in Beckley.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 25 hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

    Yankovic's 14th album was released this week, and it warms my heart containers that he's kept up his geeky brand of humor for so long. While he has written so many incredible songs, none have spoken to my love of proper grammar.
    Until "Word Crimes."

    July 16, 2014

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks