INDIANAPOLIS – State revenue projections unveiled Wednesday show Indiana lawmakers will likely have another $1.5 billion for the next two-year budget.
That’s because Indiana is on pace to collect more tax revenue than initially expected last December, according to a bipartisan analysis conducted by state officials.
The state revenue forecast plays a big role in determining how lawmakers craft the next two-year state budget.
Tom Jackson, principal economist for S&P Global Market Intelligence, told lawmakers economic growth in Indiana is slowing down but still expected to continue in some form.
“We don’t see a recession, per se, which really is kind of negative growth,” he said.
“We’re just fortunate to be in that position,” State Sen. Ryan Mishler (R-Mishawaka) said after the announcement.
Mishler, who chairs the Senate Appropriations committee, said he believes the increased revenue may help provide more funding for enhanced mental health services. House and Senate lawmakers are still negotiating how that should be paid for.
“We’ll talk after this meeting probably and start talking about the cigarette tax, the 988 [phone bill surcharge], different things that have been thrown out, but this does add another option,” Mishler said.
Mishler said he doesn’t expect lawmakers to adjust their funding proposal for public health departments. The budget plans from both Senate and House Republicans provide only two-thirds of the money Gov. Eric Holcomb requested.
“I think you have a lot of members that just have some issues with the bill itself, so that will be a tougher one probably to increase the funding,” Mishler said.
But Democrats disagree, arguing more funding for public health needs to be a priority.
“Public health is very important to us as well, Senate Bill 1 and the mental health,” said State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking minority member of the House Ways and Means committee.
Porter argues the revenue forecast gives lawmakers reason to be more ambitious when it comes to spending. Democrats have proposed several initiatives for the next budget, including taking steps toward universal pre-K – which Republicans aren’t on board with.
“They keep talking about the recession, they’re pushing it out further and further, so don’t think it’s going to slow us down for the next year or two,” Porter said.
Lawmakers have until April 29 to finalize and approve the new two-year budget.