[r72] Session Reaches Halfway Point (3/5/2009)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Start Date: 3/5/2009 All Day
End Date: 3/5/2009

STATEHOUSE - The budget passed by the Democrat majority in the Indiana House of Representatives today is not only a disappointment, it is a disaster. That is why I could not vote for it.

It worries me in many ways.

First, it spends much more than the state is likely to bring in.

Second, it removes taxpayer protection on state spending.

Third, it runs the risk of increasing property taxes by allowing some areas to circumvent the property tax caps.

This budget puts Hoosiers' checkbooks, the state's economy and the functions of Indiana government at risk. I hope, as the budget works its way through the Senate and then back to the House, these problems can be resolved.

House Bill 1001, as it stands now, ignores the simplest rule of responsible budgeting - don't spend more than you're likely to take in. It also uses the legislative equivalent of smoke and mirrors to hide irresponsible and dangerous spending.

When the Democrat spending plan is analyzed, these things are clear:

PROPERTY TAXES WILL GO UP
Property taxes are going to go up if the plan becomes law. And this just a year after the General Assembly gave Hoosier taxpayers the landmark "Cut Now/Cap Forever" property tax reform plan that reduced property taxes an average of 35 percent statewide and included the promise that Hoosiers would have the chance to vote on including permanent property tax caps in the Indiana Constitution.

THE ONE-YEAR BUDGET IS AN UNPRECEDENTED CHANGE
The Democrat proposal is for a one-year budget, an unprecedented change from the time-tested two-year plan. Doing this reduces the transparency in the budget process and opens the door for a full-time legislature. It also encourages short-term fiscal decisions that hinder the development of a long-range fiscal policy.

THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TRANSPARENCY
Good budget practice also calls for an honest statement showing how much the budget spends and how the budget would affect the state's combined reserve balances.

OUTSIDE SPENDING IS NOT ACCOUNTED FOR

House Democrats appropriated only $1 to account for all outside spending bills. But so far this session, they have passed out of committee legislation that spends more than $56 million and cuts state revenue by more than $125 million. And that is for fiscal year 2010 alone.

THERE IS TOO MUCH SPENDING; IT RAIDS RESERVES
Spending will increase at a time when logic dictates spending less. Just as Hoosiers are reining in their spending to weather the tough economic times, Indiana should be frugal, but the Democrat plan depletes the Rainy Day Fund. House Democrats propose spending almost $800 million more than the state expects to take in. History shows that red ink in the general fund usually leads to tax increases.

IT ELIMINATES TAXPAYER PROTECTION
The checks and balances intended to protect taxpayers are eliminated. Subverting this process is not only dangerous, but is an insult to the very people whose checkbooks are being drained.

IT SUBSIDIZES BIG SPENDERS
The plan forces Hoosiers who live in communities that spend and tax responsibly to subsidize local services provided by big spenders in other parts of the state.

IT BYPASSES REVIEW PROCESS
The Democrat budget allows universities and other state entities to bypass the review process when spending taxpayers' money on capital projects. That means they could take a free-wheeling approach with other people's money.

This one-year budget is the equivalent of a family or business living from day to day. It is bad policy for families and businesses to do that, and it is terrible policy for a state government to do that.

I could not, in good faith and good conscience, vote for this budget. The legislature owes the state and its taxpayers a higher standard. House Republican ideas were ignored. Our pleas were ignored. I think Hoosier taxpayers were ignored, and I voted "No."

This budget tells the Hoosier taxpayer, "We're from the government, and we know how to spend your money better than you, so hand it over and trust us. We'll be back again next year to let you know how much more we need."

I had to say "No" to that.

For months, you have heard me pledge to work for an honestly balanced budget with no gimmicks and no general tax increases. My colleagues on the other side of the aisle have clearly rejected that philosophy and have forged ahead with their own plan to outspend the state's income, ravage the state's reserves and drain the checkbooks of Hoosier taxpayers.

That is why I gave this budget the vote it deserves.