Porter on budget close-out: A big bottom line cannot mask Indiana’s fiscal ills

July 14, 2014 Gregory W. Porter

For immediate release:
July 14, 2014


INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, issued the following statement upon the announcement of the state budget close-out earlier today:

“These yearly events take on a certain sameness. Those who present the figures focus solely on the big numbers at the end in the hope that having something like $2 billion in the bank proves some measure of fiscal competence and expertise in managing government.

“It does prove that we know how to horde money in the bank. What it doesn’t prove is that we know how to run state government in a way that benefits the people of Indiana. It is a fool’s errand to simply look at a bottom line of around $2 billion without understanding how they got to that number and what is being lost by their devotion to a big number at the expense of all else.

“For instance, it does not take into account the ongoing failure of this administration to take advantage of reserves like the Next Generation Trust Fund and the Indiana Check-up Trust Fund. The state continues to horde these dollars rather than use them to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and provide health care for our neediest residents.

“It doesn’t take into account the ongoing bill our state must send to the federal government to repay loans that shored up our unemployment insurance trust fund. Or the millions we lost through the inept management of tobacco settlement dollars by the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Or the millions we stand to lose from the IBM privatization fiasco, just to mention one of a series of lawsuits pending against the state.

“But let us examine what is being ignored as the state continues its focus on a big dollar figure at the expense of its real world consequences:

“Our state’s CHOICE program has a waiting list of more than 3,000 people that never seems to change.

“A $4 million Early Learning Challenge Grant appropriation lies dormant. For those who don’t remember it, this was the funding approved in the 2013 session that was supposed to get us on the path to starting pre-K programs in Indiana. In the haze surrounding the approval of a pre-k program in 2014—this one glowingly lauded by the governor—people might have forgotten what we did one year earlier. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since neither program will be in effect this year.

“There is the continuing shame over the dwindling resources we are providing for our public schools: less than 2 percent in 2014 and less than 1 percent in 2015. And don’t forget that we have yet to make up the $300 million that our previous governor removed from tuition support in 2010.

“The state of higher education isn’t much better. Remember that funds for those schools were cut 2 percent by the State Budget Agency not long after the current biennial state budget went into effect. Over the last three budget cycles, state aid per student has plummeted from $5,132 in 2009 to $4,442 in 2013—a drop of more than 13 percent. Many universities have responded by cutting programs and raising tuition, which places even greater burdens on students. This is not how we improve the skills sets for younger Hoosiers.

“Let me mention one more. Our state’s response to an infant mortality rate that is one of the worst in the country? Studies that tell us what we already know, but no funding to do anything about it.

“Sadly, this will not get any better, because the true, full impact of the Republican bloodlust to cut taxes for the very wealthy is coming in the next few years. The loss of inheritance taxes, corporate income taxes and personal income taxes will be felt well beyond the impact of today’s announcement. It will heighten the many problems I have just mentioned, and I strongly suspect the results of the governor’s recent tax conference will only make things worse.

“There is nothing to celebrate today. To be proud or delighted about these numbers is disgraceful.”