Congress recently passed healthcare legislation that will have a profound effect on states, including our own. Unfortunately, it seems that the 2,500 page bill the president signed into law contains billions of dollars in unfunded mandates-and Indiana is now going to have to pick up an enormous tab.
Of all my concerns with the new healthcare legislation-and I have many-most chief is at what expense this will be to Hoosier taxpayers. As a member of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, it's my duty to closely examine every dollar our state spends. Due to our nation's current economic climate, state revenues have sharply declined and Indiana has had to reduce spending to keep from falling into debt. Add the new cost of federal healthcare mandates, and it's clear we are going to have a real mess to deal with.
It's currently estimated that this legislation will cost Hoosier taxpayers hundreds of millions in the coming years. In fact, just one particular provision of the bill will cost $25 million immediately and $400 million over the next ten years. And these costs are only the tip of the iceberg. With Medicaid expansion set to begin in 2014, 1 out of every 4 Hoosiers will be enrolled in the program which will almost certainly cost hundreds of millions more.
Hoosiers need to be prepared for the potential consequences of these mandates. With a limited budget, the state is forced to go in one of two directions-deeper cuts to areas funded by the state, or increased taxes, such as sales and income.
Tax increases, in my opinion, shouldn't enter into the equation. With families all across the state struggling to make ends meet, the last thing their government should do is raise taxes. However, it's extremely difficult to find areas to reduce spending. Unlike the federal government, state government has limited resources and 'passing the buck,' as Congress has done, is simply not an option. Currently, 54% of our budget is spent on K-12 education while another 12% is spent on higher education. So while we will do everything in our power to avoid it, the federal government is leaving Hoosiers with one of two unavoidable choices: make further cuts to areas like education or raise taxes.
In short: the federal healthcare legislation will force Indiana to divert money away from the classroom and the education of our children. That's a difficult reality, but one for which we must be prepared. That is at least until Washington, D.C. stops its out of control spending habits, requiring Hoosiers to clean up their mess.
Rep. Eric Turner