Porter laments state’s fondness for reversions over funding critical programs

September 4, 2018 Gregory W. Porter

INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, today issued the following statement on state government’s fondness for reverting money:

“Once again, the state of Indiana gloats over having financial reserves of close to $2 billion. We see officials pat themselves on the back and compliment their financial wisdom.

“And, once again, we are able to reach these dizzying heights by causing agencies to revert money back to the state…this time, close to $400 million.

“From my position on the House Ways and Means Committee, these events always seem to take on aspects of a game show. As we get closer to the end of a fiscal year, concerns are expressed that there will be $20 or $30 million in reversions. Tension builds. Then, like manna from heaven, the final figures give us reversions exceeding $100 million, $200 million, and, this year, $300 million.

“Yet there is nothing funny about some of the programs that get short-changed by these games. Let’s review a few…

“Our CHOICE program, which enables seniors to get quality health services in their home, maintains a waiting list of close to 3,000 people. Yet the governor persists in reverting $1 million from CHOICE back to the general fund.

“Since Indiana has the third worst maternal mortality rate in the U.S., perhaps some of the $3 million reverted by the Indiana State Department of Health could have gone to reduce that sorry ranking?

“Could some of the $20 million not spent by the Department of Corrections gone toward strengthening initiatives aimed at reducing opiate addiction in Indiana?

“Or, maybe we could have taken some of the $4 million not spent on pre-K programs to expand that vital effort?

“Instead, what we get is the governor grandly announcing in June that he was immediately providing $25 million in funding to help improve our state’s Department of Child Services (DCS). That was a worthy goal, except for the fact that the $25 million isn’t new funding…but funding that’s already in the budget for DCS.

“Then the governor said he would make $5 million available in grants for school safety…along with another $30 million to provide loans with a 4 percent interest rate to schools to pay for projects to keep buildings safe. Couldn’t he have considered just taking that $30 million out of the surplus and provided grants instead of loans? Would it have made that big of a difference to have $400 million in reversions or $370 million in reversions?

“On three occasions during the 2018 legislative session, I have attempted to expand state support for school safety by providing reversionary dollars. In all three instances—in the House Ways and Means Committee, and in front of the full House during the regular and special session—Republican leadership denied my efforts.

“So now we have started a new school year, and some districts have decided not to accept the state’s largesse of hand-held detectors and loans.

“On the bright side, administration officials already are projecting they will have at least $240 million to revert at the end of the 2019 fiscal year next June.

“Some might not find that news worth celebrating, when you stop to consider what could be done.”