I know it's not a typical holiday activity, but perhaps it should be. At the hearings, state agencies and institutions present their budget requests for the next two years. Budget deliberations will begin in January, after the start of the legislative session on Jan. 5.
Like Hoosier families, government will have to find a way to live within its means. It won't be easy, and the hearings provide an initial glimpse of what to expect. They are broadcast live at www.in.gov/legislative/2441.htm. Click on the link for the House Ways and Means Committee. Here's the schedule:
Hearings over the last several weeks have included state colleges and universities; a presentation on the budget development process; courts; the Indiana State Police; departments of Correction, Child Services and Health; the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Trust Fund; the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired; the Indiana School for the Deaf; the Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association; the Tobacco Master Settlement Fund; the Family and Social Services Administration; and the inspector general.
For the first time, the State Budget Agency is posting budget development documents online. Go to www.in.gov/sba/2559.htm. The documents offer valuable insight into state agencies and initiatives. For example, I was interested to read the presentation from the Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association.
According to the presentation, ICHIA "was created by the Indiana General Assembly in 1981 as a not for profit association to provide health insurance for Indiana citizens who were unable to obtain medical coverage in the open commercial market. The ICHIA program operates as a safety net for our State's uninsurable by providing health insurance to all designated as eligible under the law."
There are about 7,300 participants in the program, which will be eliminated in 2014 as a result of the recent federal health care legislation. The creation, expansion and pending elimination of ICHIA provide an interesting perspective on the health care issue as it has evolved over the last several decades.
All of the budget information is also available via the Indiana Transparency Portal (www.in.gov/itp), which, according to the portal's home page, "is designed to give you, the Indiana taxpayer, an inside look into Indiana State Government spending and operations.
"ITP is an online solution designed to bring better visibility, openness & accountability to Indiana State Government. The ITP contains information ranging from agency budgets to state contracts and agency performance measures. We strive to utilize your tax dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible and we look forward to sharing this information with you."
In addition, the portal includes links to property tax summaries, information about Indiana's use of federal stimulus money, state contracts and a wealth of other information.
As always, if you do not have Internet access and wish to receive a copy of anything I have mentioned - or something I haven't mentioned - call my legislative assistant, Clinton Bohm , at 1-800-382-9841, and he will mail you a printed copy.
Like the online posting of budget development documents, the transparency website is new. To put it in a holiday context, you might say Indiana government is unwrapped.