[R53] Two chambers, two budgets, one vision (4/8/2013)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Start Date: 4/8/2013 Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 4/8/2013 End Time: 11:59 PM

When crafting our state’s budget, it is important for us to remember that what we are doing has similarities to what families do on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. As we near the end of the 2013 legislative session, we now have two proposed budgets, one from the House and one from the Senate. I want to take the opportunity to compare these budgets in terms that Hoosier families can relate to.

When a family begins thinking about their budget, they often ask themselves three important questions. How will we provide for our children? How will we pay down our debts? And lastly, how will save for our future? Both the House and Senate proposed budgets place a strong emphasis on restoring education funding, paying down our financial obligations and investing in the future of our state. In comparing the two, what you’ll probably find is that although we may have different ways of going about it, we are all striving for the same goal: fiscal integrity and responsibility to the people of Indiana. 

According to a 2010 State Expenditure Report released by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Indiana ranked No. 1 among all states in the percentage of general fund expenditures dedicated to K-12 education. Forty-six percent, or $354 million, of the House proposed budget is allotted to K-12 education. This includes $5 million per year for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teacher recruitment. The Senate proposed budget adds $331 million in total new school operating dollars, with $3 million per year for STEM teacher recruitment.

In an attempt to pay down our debts, the House proposed budget reduces taxpayer funded debt by paying off outstanding bonds on two state-owned facilities: Indiana State Museum and Forensic Sciences Laboratory. The Senate proposed budget removes this funding, but it takes other steps to limit the growth of Indiana’s debt. For instance, in the past, we have often borrowed to pay for capital projects such as universities. The Senate proposed budget still borrows money, but also uses $200 million in cash.

Under the House proposed budget, Indiana would have a structural surplus of $102 million in fiscal year (FY) 14 and $345 million in FY15, compared to $125 million and $126 million in the Senate respectively. Surpluses will help us weather any future financial storms. Compared to the Senate proposed budget, projected ending balances are 1.1 percent higher in FY14 and 3.6 percent higher in FY15 in the House passed budget.

There is still ongoing discussion, but we will have a final version of the budget by the end of the month. I look forward to working with the Senate in the coming weeks to do what is best for our state. I believe it says a great deal about our elected officials and those who put them there that we now have two such high quality budget proposals to work with. I commend the Senate for their proposed budget but I would like to see a final version which spends less and is more sustainable. At the end of the day, this is not a House or Senate, Democrat or Republican issue. This is an Indiana issue.

What are your thoughts on the state budget? What aspects do you think we can pull from each proposed budget to make one final plan? I appreciate hearing your feedback on these very important issues affecting our state. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 317-232-9619 or by email at h53@in.gov.