MAINTAINING BALANCED BUDGET KEY TO INDIANA’S WEATHERING THE STORM
Let’s not become shortsighted in this long session of Indiana General Assembly.
SCHOOL PAYMENT DELAYS.
MAJOR CUTS IN EDUCATION FUNDING.
INMATES FREED EARLY TO SAVE MONEY.
These are all headlines from recent newspapers reporting on other states’ efforts to save money.
Now for the good news: None of the above is happening in our state.
In a recent presentation to an Indiana Rotary Club, Gov. Mitch Daniels shared those headlines from other states and a map illustrating how Indiana is surrounded by neighbors facing ongoing budget deficits. While revenues are down, our state is still one of just six in the nation with a budget surplus.
Why? Because the governor and the state legislature have been good stewards of the state treasury. We must roll up our sleeves and do it again, as a new budget session of the Indiana General Assembly is upon us. You can rest assured I will continue to advocate fiscal restraint as this session unfolds, ensuring state government does just what we do in our own households – spend only what we can afford.
Alongside my Senate and House colleagues, I intend to work with the governor on principles he outlined for the next two-year budget – one that’s honestly balanced with no gimmicks; protects our reserves we’ve worked so hard to achieve; and funds priorities like K-12 education, public safety, Medicaid and protecting children.
Because many Hoosier families are feeling the strain of the national economic downturn, we must do this without raising taxes. As you may have read, we’ve already started cutting where we can. State agency budgets have been reduced by 8 percent and Gov. Daniels has already announced there will be no pay raises for state employees in 2009. I recently joined House Speaker Pat Bauer, House Minority Leader Brian Bosma and Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson in a first-ever bipartisan call for fiscal restraint – including a freeze on our own salaries.
I know some tough decisions are ahead, but we’ll have better choices to make than most. In Indiana, we put the brakes on spending several years ago unlike other states that continued to spend beyond their means.
After seven consecutive years of budgets running in the red, things changed in 2005. That year, behind a Republican governor and Republican-controlled Senate, legislators passed the tightest budget in more than 50 years, holding spending at or below the rate of inflation. Since then, Indiana has had three consecutive balanced two-year budgets.
Our state’s hard work at becoming fiscally fit was rewarded in 2008 when, for the first time in history, Indiana’s credit rating was raised to AAA – the highest rating assigned by Standard & Poor’s. Experts have estimated Indiana will save millions annually in interest, keeping more dollars in taxpayers’ pockets.
So we’ve come a long way – too far to turn back to our deficit spending days of the past. Certainly there are other issues but so many of them revolve around the state’s financial health. We have a better chance of attracting more jobs when our state finances are fiscally sound and our tax systems are stable.
As always, your opinions are welcomed and appreciated. I encourage you to complete my 2009 Legislative Survey that should have arrived in your mail. Or, if you prefer, you may complete the survey online by accessing my virtual office at www.in.gov/senator.long
With your valuable input and that of others, my hope is we don’t become shortsighted in this long session of the Indiana General Assembly.
Sen. David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is President Pro Tem of the Indiana Senate. He serves District 16, which includes portions of Fort Wayne.