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The fiscal year for our state ended June 30 and as it came to a close, state auditor Tim Berry reported a surplus of $2.15 billion in Indiana’s coffers; a hefty amount considering the current situation of the economy.
Naturally, there are different ways to look at the news of the surplus. You can take it as our state government doing what most haven’t in the down economy – they lived within their means, tightened belts when needed and sacrificed a lot to keep the numbers in the black. Basically, our elected officials did their jobs.
Or you might see the surplus as a sign the state cut too much from programs and asked taxpayers to give up more than what was needed – a lot more.
The truth of the matter, we believe, is there is both good and bad to this surplus.
The good – there is extra money and there are options on how it can be spent and saved. Part of it will be returned to taxpayers – a promise made by Gov. Mitch Daniels in a bill he pushed to ensure if the state’s surplus was more than 10 percent of the annual budget, taxpayers would receive a credit. State pensions will also get a little boost thanks to the surplus.
Once everything settles, the amount back in Hoosiers’ wallets could be up to $100 or more next year and our state will have a bit of savings tucked away.
The bad – to get to this surplus, we had to cut from many programs. And we cut a lot.
It’s hard to forget what local school corporations went through this past fiscal year to make sure children received proper educations under tight budgets. Our local government agencies also had to deal with hard decisions on where to cut to make their budgets work.
It’s not an easy task, but for the past two years, it’s been done and we’ve all made do with what we had.
However, a tricky situation now presents itself. How will the governor elected to replace Daniels handle this surplus? Will he allow the extra funds to stay in the coffers and pad the reserves? Will he be open to spending a portion of it to ease the pinch on state programs and schools?
“The new governor and legislators still will certainly have a tough time balancing the budget, but this time it will be in the form of resisting temptation to spend instead of identifying ways to cut expenses,” said John Ketzenberger, president of the nonpartisan Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute in a recent Evansville Courier and Press article. “There will likely be pent-up demand among many constituents for new or additional spending and it is harder for policymakers to say no to them when there are surplus funds.”
Our hope is that the new governor and other state elected officials work together to keep a little savings in the bank for Indiana, but also help ease the crunch on local governments and taxpayers. We all know the temptations of spending extra money instead of saving it. We all know about the difficulty of decision making when money is involved. They are not choices to take lightly.
We ask Indiana governmental officials to be wise in their decisions for the next fiscal year; don’t use our excess money in a spending spree, but realize there aren’t too many more places where taxpayers can tighten their belts.
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