The nights are getting longer, and the debate more spirited at the Statehouse; a trend unlikely to change over the next two weeks before the final day of session, April 29. There have been many diverse issues discussed with bills being proposed to make Indiana a better place to live, work and raise a family.
I am pleased to report that recently two particularly interesting pieces of legislation addressing fiscal matters have cleared some major legislative hurdles. Senate Bill (SB) 517, which deals with local government finance, passed the House, and Senate Bill 544, which addresses state and local tax administration, passed the Senate.
SB 517 would authorize the Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) to establish a three year pilot program for nonbinding reviews of budgets, property tax rates and property tax levies. This bill will protect Indiana’s credit ratings by providing the maximum amount of time allowed for reviewing operating balances.
The bill also grants access to the School General Fund Transfers program. This program permits a school corporation to make a transfer from its general fund to its transportation fund or school bus replacement fund. This will provide more flexibility and aid in school transportation costs or any school bus replacement.
The other bill, SB 544, gives counties better access to the tax revenue that they will be receiving. This is done through changing the county trust account balance threshold from 150 percent to 50 percent.
The bill also makes changes to the distribution of county's financial institutions tax revenue from the state to twice a year, which will assist the state in being more accurate in matching the amount received and amount distributed for each county.
Both of these bills give local communities more control over the potential impact made by state dollars. By encouraging flexibility in spending at a local level, we empower communities to take charge in deciding what is best for them.
In the remaining weeks, I will continue to keep Indiana's fiscal future in mind as we craft a two-year, state budget that prudently allocates funds to critical services. Supporting small businesses, schools and Hoosier communities will always be my focus to enhance the lifestyle in rural and small-town Indiana.