Each week when I sit down to think of a topic to write about, my first instinct is to mentally go back through the past week and find the ideas that would interest you the most. Generally, I come to the conclusion that there are too many things to write about, and I realize that I cannot possibly cover every topic to please every reader.
Doing Our Best
I think the same logic can be extended to the discussion about the budget going through the legislature here in Indiana. The budget always starts in the House of Representatives, we have already put forth our plan and the budget has worked its way to the Senate for further input. Much more collaboration and discussion goes into our state’s budget, probably more than most people realize.
Preparing the plan for the entirety of Indiana’s spending for the next two years is a big deal. Funding for education, roads, welfare assistance, correctional facilities, Medicaid, public safety, public universities and many other services is all accounted for in the biennial budget. The allocation of these funds is where the situation gets sticky.
The first step is to look at how the previous budget was formed. We ask questions like: Did all the funds allocated to a certain place get used? Was there too much or not enough? Are there programs that are in need of additional funding? What new programs are going to be funded? How has the economic climate changed and how will that impact our decisions? What can we do to improve the lives of the most Hoosiers?
When the topic of tax cuts is brought up, again I find myself reflecting on the past. Over the last decade, Indiana was forced to make some drastic funding cuts due to the struggling national economy. The belt had to be tightened in order to keep Indiana in the black and out of financial trouble. As Hoosiers across our state were having difficult kitchen table conversations on what to cut out of their budgets, Indiana was too. State Agency budgets were cut as well as K-12 education funding.
The thought was to “cut” rather than “tax.” Our budget has been able to restore the recession-based cuts made to education and strategic investments to other agencies whose funding was cut down, like the Department of Child Services. Now, thanks to our fiscal integrity, Indiana is in good shape, so it seems only natural to want to distribute excess funds back to Hoosiers. The House budget does this through the first-ever Automatic Taxpayer Refund (ATR).
The ATR passed by the General Assembly for tax year 2012 gives back $111 to eligible Hoosiers and $222 for an eligible married couple filing a joint return. Approximately 3.26 million Hoosiers qualify for this return, adding up to about $360 million put back into Indiana pockets. This refund represents a median tax cut of about 13 percent and is one of only a few states able to offer its residents such a great deal.
We realize that the final budget cannot fund all the interests of everyone in Indiana. Every dollar spent, every tax cut, every shift made was decided with the purposeful intent to better our state. My hope is that you, my constituents, truly understand that my goal is to serve you at the Statehouse to the best of my ability and to look out for your best interests.
Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I can be reached by phone at 317-232-9850 or email at email@example.com.
State Rep. Cindy Ziemke serves as Vice Chairman of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Commerce, Small Business and Economic Development Committee and the Select Committee on Government Reduction. Rep. Ziemke represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.