The final budget, proposed in the waning moments of the session, was far, far short of what I hoped it would be. Honestly, Hoosiers deserved better.
The budget would have wiped out the state's reserves, created a structural deficit of more than $800 million for the next budget cycle, misused the one-time federal stimulus money and led Indiana to a tax increase within two years.
It failed by a 27-71 vote.
I understand that a budget was supposed to be our No. 1 responsibility, but I could not support a budget that would raise taxes and lead Indiana into the red, and many of my House colleagues agreed. Because we did not pass a budget, we now are headed for a special session.
I can assure you no one wanted a special session. I also can assure you we will go into the special session with a plan in mind. I just hope the budget-crafting process will include all four caucuses this time so we can pass a budget everyone can agree on in a timely manner.
I also hope we will be able to keep legislation moving through the legislative process so we will only be in special session for a short time.
Keep in mind there can be benefits to having a special session. One is that we will have additional revenue forecasts to help us establish a responsibly balanced budget. We will know how much is coming in compared with what we are spending.
There also is the possibility other legislation, such as that involving the Capital Improvement Board and property tax caps, in need of resolving and could easily be brought up in the special session.
Personally, I would like to see the language in House Bill 1058 be brought up again and passed. The bill would enable cities and towns to collect income tax information, which could possibly help lower property taxes in the future.
Indiana still has the opportunity to move forward, and legislators have been given a second chance. We need to establish a budget that will protect Hoosier taxpayers, use stimulus money responsibly, provide adequate funding for education and not send Indiana over a cliff in two years.
If we can work in a bipartisan fashion, I am sure we will have a budget all four caucuses can all support.
Stay tuned. It's going to be interesting.