[r63] Messmer Report: Protecting Hoosier taxpayers, strengthening the economy

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, March 4, 2011

Every two years the General Assembly is required by Indiana's constitution to create and pass a budget by the end of the legislative session in April. The process begins in the House Ways and Means Committee, and the budget that was proposed by the committee is for fiscal years 2012-2013. In an effort to stay true to the Strengthen Indiana Plan the proposed budget will not increase taxes, will put the budget into structural balance by 2013, maintain sufficient reserves to protect taxpayers and will protect K-12 education in Indiana.

This week, the February revenue forecast was released and showed that Indiana's revenue is still increasing. The state is $5 million ahead of where we were projected to be in December. In order to allow Indiana to continue to lead the way of out the recession, it is imperative that we protect Hoosier taxpayers, preserve vital services, and allow Indiana to maintain the stable and sound fiscal environment necessary to create Hoosier jobs.

The House has embraced the attitude of living within our means and making do with less. Cuts have been made to the newly proposed budget, but many agencies' spending has simply been frozen or flat lined. Government agencies are spending 25 percent less than they were in 2009 and will continue to do so. There were a few exceptions including: Medicaid, Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association for those with serious medical issues, and pension obligations.

Indiana is in excellent condition fiscally compared to more than half of states in the nation. 24 states are already anticipating that FY13 budget deficits will total more than $66 billion, and 13 states are projecting deficits in excess of 10 percent of their general fund budgets.  Indiana is well on its way to creating a surplus and a structurally balanced budget by 2013.

Other states have also had to raise taxes since the start of the recession to the tune of over $36 billion. Illinois alone has raised taxes by $6.8 billion annually since 2009.

In regards to K-12 education, our proposed budget will preserve tuition support funding at current levels and we have made no additional cuts from the budget. K-12 education will receive the same amount of funding they have received since 2009. Only 3 percent was taken in 2009 compared to an average of 25 percent budget cuts that other state agencies faced, and no more has been cut since. We want to put children first, and believe that other agencies can make do with larger cuts than education can.

The attempts by the House Democrats to kill the budget by walking out will not be allowed. If we did not pass a budget by the end of the legislative session on April 29, then the governor would have to begin shutting down agencies temporarily until a budget was agreed to during a special session and funds were allocated for them to function. A special session will cost thousands of extra taxpayer dollars to accommodate the cost. We are hoping to avoid this unnecessary cost, but will not be able to unless our Democrat colleagues return to their seats in the House soon.

The bottom line is that Indiana's economy is well on the road to recovery and will continue to strengthen. Once the process is no longer at a stalemate and the Democrats return from their hiding in Illinois, we will hear the budget on the House floor and the more than 140 amendments filed to the bill to date, House Bill 1001. We have worked in a bi-partisan manner since November and will continue to do so once the representatives that have fled the state return to do the job they swore to do.

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Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)