INDIANAPOLIS – Ahead of the new legislative session, Indiana lawmakers are considering what could be included in the next state budget.
Indiana’s budget is drafted every two years. This time around, lawmakers have a significant surplus to work with – it topped $6 billion by July, after the end of the fiscal year. During the special session, $1 billion was returned to taxpayers through the inflation relief law.
“It will become a fight not about where to cut, but a fight about who’s going to get extra revenue,” said Andrew Downs, director emeritus of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Purdue University Fort Wayne.
State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) said he believes there are many ways the state should spend those dollars.
“We cannot continue to sit on surpluses in the billions and neglect investments that we need to make in education, in infrastructure, in public health and health care,” Qaddoura said.
There are some areas where Republicans agree there should be more investment, including public health.
“We obviously have not funded that particularly well over the last several years, so we’re going to redo the infrastructure for our public health,” Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said during an interview Oct. 27.
Bray said he would prefer to gradually scale up spending over several years based on economic projections.
Experts point out the recent higher rates of inflation and a possible recession next year will likely play a role in budgetary decisions.
“I don’t think all $6 billion is up to be invested,” said Philip Powell, a professor at the IU Kelley School of Business. “They’ll probably put some of it away for a rainy day [fund] and that will be a very smart move, given that tax revenue typically falls if the economy shrinks.”
A report with an update on the state surplus is set to be released in December, according to the State Budget Agency.