STATEHOUSE (April 27, 2009) - As they say in Indy about this time of year, we are coming out of the fourth turn and racing toward the finish line. The biggest difference is that at the 500, all the cars are going the same way. Here at the Statehouse, it seems we have cars going in all directions with some just doing doughnuts in the infield.
There are some mighty big issues that await us as we try to get all the cars moving in the right direction. The budget, unemployment insurance and the CIB bailout are the real big ones. It seems with only two days left, the amount of work needing to be done is overwhelming, but I know most everyone here wants these issues finished to avoid a special session.
The current proposed budget still spends more than the projected revenues for the next two years. If April is an indicator of the future, the poor revenue forecast can be considered optimistic and thus we may be in a bigger hole than we think down the road.
With 60 to 65 percent of the budget education-related and another 15 to 20 percent entitlement- and corrections-related, we have squeezed as mush as possible out of 15 to 20 percent of all other expenditures.
The sad truth is that with our current economic situation, education and entitlement spending may have to be reviewed. Education is one of the only items in the budget with an increase.
I am not advocating cuts, but maybe we need to flat-line spending until recovery is on the horizon.
Based on the e-mails I have received, I know what to expect when I discuss education spending. Maybe we have come to the point where someone has to stand up and explain little the little boy in Hans Christian Andersen's The Emperor's New Clothes and the child's observation, "But he has nothing on!" It is plain to see there are some problems in public education, but too many people are afraid to offend the emperor.
The other elephant in the room is the unemployment insurance trust fund. I had written earlier in one of my newsletters this is an issue that seriously divides the two parties.
The Democrat plan puts the entire burden of the return to solvency on the backs of employers. They argue the system is set up for businesses to pay in and the unemployed to take out.
While this is somewhat true, the increased taxes on businesses could have the potential to created more layoffs. In some situations, the increased cost is more than 300 percent.
The Republican plan calls for a more mild increase on business premiums and actually increases the benefits for the unemployed for the first four weeks and then slightly decreases the benefit over the next 26 weeks. Our plan also closes some longstanding loopholes and tightens definitions of "seasonal worker."
I have felt and I still feel we are all in the mess together, and we must all bear the scars of a strenuous recovery.
The Capital Improvement Board issue has led to a lot of finger-pointing and name-calling. If you have watched the news from Indy on this issue, there is no clear consensus on where the solution lies. It is not a party issue: The D's and the R's are all over the map.
How this all shakes out will be interesting. If the state is going to be involved, it better move quickly. I do not see the governor calling us into special session over this issue.
Sorry to say but next week will be the last issue of the 2009 session version of In Lehman's Terms. To some, this may be welcome news.
I will continue to keep you informed during the summer and give you updates as things move toward 2010. Next week, I will give a review of my first year in office (unless we are coming back).
Keeping things in Lehman's terms,
Rep. Matt Lehman