[r82] State budget held hostage due to Dem walk-out (2/24/2011)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Start Date: 2/24/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/24/2011
STATEHOUSE-For more than 130 years, Indiana lawmakers have successfully passed a state budget. This year, several lawmakers are trying to break that longstanding Hoosier tradition by staging a walk-out, forcing an extension to the budget hearing deadline.

"Hoosiers are being short-changed by the actions that have taken place this week," said Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale). "We have 100 elected officials governing in this House and 35 of them are refusing to give the Hoosiers that put them here, a voice.

"A walk-out to caucus is not an unusual or abnormal occurrence-both parties have done it-although we've never had anyone flee to another state before. But it's unfortunate for everyone involved, especially the more than six million Hoosiers who depend on us to be here."

The House Democrats have been sending "notes" to the Speaker, listing their demands in exchange for their return. Included were many amendments-or changes-they are asking to be adopted into the state budget bill.  One hundred and forty-six amendments have been filed, adding more than $428 million to the current $27.9 billion budget.

"Many of these amendments were made in a sincere fashion, but we need to understand that the state's funds are not an exhausted commodity. We simply don't have the funds to be spending on amendments dealing with special projects.

"If we were to adopt these amendments, the state would go broke-in addition to damaging our credit rating and further inhibiting our ability to bring in jobs. But we are willing to have an open discussion about these amendments when the Democrats decide to return to the Statehouse."

After hearing news that the House Democrats will not be returning, the Speaker adjourned for the week and scheduled session to reconvene on Monday, Feb. 28 at 1:30 p.m. Before adjourning, the majority was able to extend the rules to allow bills, including the state budget and other bills, to be debated next week.