Balanced budget constitutional change issue awaits voters

Indiana Statehouse

INDIANAPOLIS — Voters this year are being asked whether they support an amendment to the Indiana Constitution obligating the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets unless two-thirds of the members of both chambers vote to suspend the requirement.

Public Question No. 1 goes before the voters in the Nov. 6 election after it cleared two separate General Assemblies as a resolution. It was first proposed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor in his 2015 State of the State address.

Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, who sponsored the resolution in the Indiana House, said the amendment should be approved because it “limits the amount of gimmicks that can be played” with the state budget, such as not funding pension responsibilities and bonding responsibilities, “so that what we’re bringing in and what we’re spending is truly balanced.”

“We’ve held to that standard in recent years,” Huston said.

Huston pointed out the resolution received overwhelming support from lawmakers.

State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, was one of just four senators who voted against the amendment last year, but not because she’s opposed to balanced budgets.

“I think we should have a balanced budget. We’ve always had a balanced budget. … We already have a provision in the constitution that says we can’t go into debt,” Tallian said.

The constitution already largely bans the state from incurring debt, except in times of war. Under the amendment, the General Assembly would be required to pass a balanced budget unless supermajorities of two-thirds of the members of each chamber vote to suspend the requirement.

Tallian said the constitution adopted in 1851 should not be tinkered with.

“I have never ever voted for any constitutional amendment because I don’t think we need to mess around with the constitution. I’m probably the most conservative and most consistent person in the Senate on that issue,” Tallian said.

The Indiana electorate last voted to amend the constitution just two years ago when it approved a provision to protect the right to hunt and fish.

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