Porter pushes for Indiana State Budget Committee’s right to review COVID-19-related funding actions

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INDIANAPOLIS – Yesterday, State Representative Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), Ranking Minority Member of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, sent a letter to Indiana State Budget Committee Chairman Tim Brown regarding his belief that the State Budget Committee should be involved in the State Budget Agency's decision-making process during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Porter underlined the importance of the State Budget Committee as a consistent safeguard, ensuring that state budgets are carried out in the manner envisioned by the Indiana General Assembly.

In the letter, he outlined circumstances in which he feels it is important for the voices of the legislative experts in the State Budget Committee be heard, including any spending decisions that exceed the $10 million threshold and any borrowing done from the State Trust Fund.

Furthermore, Indiana has received $2.4 billion from the CARES Act, and Porter feels the spending of such a sum should require additional, thorough oversight by the State Budget Committee.

To date, the Indiana General Assembly has not played a role in any COVID-19 related spending decisions made by the Holcomb administration.

The text of the letter is pasted below:

 

April 30, 2020

The Honorable Tim Brown
Chairman, Indiana State Budget Committee
200 W. Washington St., Room 404
Indianapolis, IN 46204

Dear Chairman Brown:

I hope all is well with you and your family as we Hoosiers endure the many and varied impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

As Governor Holcomb's economic relief and recovery team meet, discuss and make recommendations, it is imperative for the State Budget Committee in its role of oversight funding actions by the state, be involved in Covid-19 pandemic from a fiscal and budgetary perspective.

I seek to move forward in two separate but important areas that require the State Budget Committee's focused attention when it comes to effective oversight thorough the State Budget Committee “Review” process.

  1. The State Budget Agency through statute and precedent is the pre-eminent State Budgetary oversight authority in all phases of Budget implementation. The post-Budget enactment State Budget Committee “Review” function serves as an effective and consistent safeguard to ensure that enacted State Budgets are carried out in the manner envisioned by the Indiana General Assembly. Specifically, any decisions regardless of dollar amount made by Governor Holcomb's Economic Relief & Recovery Team that involve the expenditure and/or utilization of Federal, State and or Dedicated funds be substantively “Reviewed” by the State Budget Committee prior to approval by the State Budget Agency for allotment and/or fund release.
  2. The State Budget Agency shall submit to the State Budget Committee a list of all Budgetary actions related to COVID-19 that they undertake separate from the Economic Relief & Recovery Team be also subject to State Budget Committee “Review.” This should be done if the amount of the individual action (e.g., expenditure of CARES Act Corona Virus Relief Fund dollars, non-allotment of funds, transfer of funds within agencies and between agencies, etc.) exceeds a $10 million dollar threshold.  I am willing to discuss what dollar amounts you and other State Budget Committee members feel are most appropriate for State Budget Committee “Review”.

Dr. Brown, any State of Indiana bond re-financings (e.g., including bond issuances/ repurchases authorized in the CARES Act) attributable to the COVID-19  crisis exceeding a value of $100 million also be subject to State Budget Committee “Review”.

As a final element, I am requesting that any State of Indiana Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund borrowings from the Federal Government be subject to State Budget Committee Review as well.

In conclusion, hopefully, we can establish an ongoing dialogue with you and the other members of the State Budget Committee in furtherance of our joint objective of ensuring that the committee's duty of effective oversight of our Budgetary “Review” authority is faithfully fulfilled throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic. I appreciate and look forward to your feedback on this correspondence.

Sincerely,

Gregory W. Porter
State Representative
Ranking Minority Member, House Ways and Means Committee

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