Man, what a difference a year makes.
Last November, I was on the receiving end of dire warnings from state budget makers facing the worst fiscal outlook in 30 years.
Worried about a projected $1 billion deficit, they were bracing themselves and the media for the body blows that would come just weeks later when the biennial budget-making session got under way.
They faced growing demands for more money to cover costs that couldn’t be put off — Medicaid and pension payments among them — and less dollars from revenue sources — sales and income taxes among them — that Hoosiers come to rely on to pay for public services.
The state wasn’t going to fall off a financial cliff if legislators didn’t come up with a balanced budget. Unlike most other states, Indiana’s governor has the power to pull back the money the legislature appropriates.
Mitch Daniels had done just that: Late into 2009, as the state’s revenues plunged, the man nicknamed “The Blade” sliced deep into state spending. He cut about $800 million from a budget that the Indiana General Assembly had OK’d just six months earlier.
Now, as this November gets under way, the revenue reports are reading rosier, though still delivered with words of caution.
Here’s what came out earlier this week from State Budget Director Adam Horst:
By the end of October, total revenue collections for the month were $1,089 million. That’s $41 million more than was projected earlier this year. And October 2011’s revenue collections were $130 million more than what came in for October 2010.
Sales tax collections totaled $542 million for the month, almost 10 percent above collections for the same period last year.
Individual income tax collections, meanwhile, were up to $396 million for the month. That’s 25 percent above collections for the same period last year. Meanwhile, payroll withholdings increased nearly 20 percent compared to the same period last year.
Those are hopeful signs — worth breaking out the beer but not the champagne.
Sales tax collections, even though they were up by double digits, experienced the lowest growth rate of any month in fiscal year 2011. And the boost in payroll taxes may be related to a timing issue. As Horst noted in his monthly revenue report, it may less to do with more people working and having their state income taxes withheld than the fact that October was a quirky calendar month for payrolls; for a lot of people paid biweekly, October produced three paychecks instead of the usual two.
So that means November payroll collection numbers will look like they’re down. Here’s one way every good Hoosier could help: As the holiday shopping season gets under way, resist the online-only retailers — including Amazon.com — that aren’t collecting the 7 percent sales tax that bricks-and-mortar retailers are required to collect and remit to the state. Patronizing the non-collectors means a loss of dollars — the estimates run from $50 million to $400 million a year — in sales tax revenues for the state.
That’s not just amorphous money. Since we Hoosiers voted to cap the property taxes that once paid for local schools and public safety, we’re more reliant on sales taxes to fund those basic services. The price of online shopping convenience has a real cost.
Maureen Hayden is the Statehouse bureau chief for the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at email@example.com
Man, what a difference a year makes.
- Indiana Legislature
Capitol Crossroads: Indiana Democrats deal with education split
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — On the face of it, the battles between Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz and supporters and staff for Republican Gov. Mike Pence have been a unifying force for Indiana Democrats. But the scrapping has exposed a deep rift within the party over how students are educated.
Caucus elects Bionca Gambill to replace Rep. Kreg Battles
A caucus of precinct committee officials in House District 45 elected Bionca Gambill of southern Vigo County to replace retiring Rep. Kreg Battles in the legislature, and will be sworn in on June 17. She will also serve as the Democratic nominee for the seat in the general election. Gambill will face Republican Bruce Borders on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Sentencing overhaul passes Indiana Legislature
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A sweeping overhaul of Indiana’s criminal sentencing law is on its way to Gov. Mike Pence for final approval.
Indiana lawmakers eyeing roads, preschool deals
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Votes on deals to spend heavily on new road construction and a preschool pilot program are expected to dominate the final day of this year’s legislative session in Indiana on Thursday, March 13.
Where no one follows the law
Loughmiller’s Pub across Washington Street from the Statehouse is a favorite hangout for legislators and lobbyists who like the tavern’s menu of gourmet burgers and craft beers. State police are regular lunch customers, as are state officials who regulate the sale of alcohol.
Changed wording to SJR-9 delays debate on right to hunt, fish
A much-debated ban on same-sex marriage wasn’t the only proposed constitutional amendment to get knocked off of this November’s ballot. Gone, too, is the less contentious proposal to protect Hoosiers’ right to hunt and fish.
Valley lawmakers assess legislative session’s trials, tribulations
As state legislators head into the final week of the state legislative session, five of them from the Wabash Valley met with citizens Saturday at the Vigo County Public Library in downtown Terre Haute and engaged in conversation about the “ups and downs” of the recent session.
Bill for welfare drug testing in negotiation
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Indiana lawmakers trying to pass a bill requiring drug tests for some welfare recipients say they have passed voluntary drug tests.
Indiana lawmakers approve police education bill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — New standards for police cultural sensitivity training and reporting of bullying-related suicides could become law pending the governor’s approval.
Same-sex marriage tax benefits up for Indiana vote
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A gay-rights coalition says it’s “deeply concerned” about a late-session Indiana proposal not to recognize same-sex marriage for tax purposes.
Olympic medalists could get Indiana tax break
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Olympic medalists from Indiana could soon get a tax break on the value of their medals and any prize money.
Indiana House backs study of teen sexual assaults
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana House is backing a plan to study the number of teen sexual assaults and rapes in the state.
Indiana State Fair 1 of only 2 without alcohol
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — This state’s distinction of having one of the last dry state fairs could end if legislation clears the Indiana House.
Senate panel limits release of Indiana roads money
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana Senate panel is limiting the amount of money that would be released from a fund for road projects in the coming year.
Indiana House committee votes to nix Common Core
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A measure to stop Indiana from using the Common Core national education standards has been advanced by a legislative panel.
Welfare drug screening stripped from Indiana bill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A bill to require drug testing for some Indiana welfare recipients with past drug offenses no longer restricts what can be bought with government food assistance.
Conservatives angry at GOP chiefs in marriage loss
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Religious conservatives who lost Indiana’s gay marriage battle are placing the blame with Indiana’s legislative leaders.
Indiana lawmakers debate meth lab disclosure
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Houses once used as methamphetamine labs would have to be listed online under a proposal being considered by Indiana lawmakers.
Indiana Senate prepares for vote on marriage ban
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State senators are scheduled to take a final vote on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage after approving a version last week which would put off a public referendum until at least 2016.
Indiana senators seek to restore civil unions ban
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Two Republican state senators have filed amendments that could place the proposed Indiana constitutional ban on gay marriage back on track for a November referendum.
Indiana gay marriage amendment debate resuming
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers’ debate over a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage is heating up again in the Statehouse.
Legislators advancing tighter Indiana scooter rules
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The chairman of the Indiana Senate’s transportation committee says he believes a proposal to tighten regulations on motorized scooters could gain legislative approval.
Indiana House passes constitutional gay marriage ban
Indiana lawmakers pressed ahead Tuesday with an effort to outlaw gay marriage under the state constitution, but the version that cleared the House wouldn’t be able to take effect until 2016 at the earliest because of a late change leaving open the possibility of same-sex civil unions someday.
Indiana Senate committee OKs industrial hemp bill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A state Senate committee has approved a bill that would allow Indiana farmers to grow Industrial hemp crops.
Bosma moves marriage ban to friendlier committee
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has sent a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage to a new committee amid concerns it lacked the support needed on another panel.
Senate panel approves Indiana business tax cut bill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana’s Senate tax committee has approved a series of tax cuts designed to aid Indiana businesses.
Vote could come next week on marriage amendment
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma says lawmakers are taking their time deciding how they’ll vote on a proposed amendment that would ban gay marriage.
Action delayed on Indiana farm trespassing bill
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Indiana Senate committee has delayed a vote on a proposed crackdown on farm trespassers.
House panel considers personal property tax cut
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Members of the House Ways and Means Committee are pondering a locally controlled cut in the business personal property tax.
Indiana House panel considers business tax changes
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Members of the Indiana House committee are pondering a locally controlled cut in the state’s property tax on business equipment.
- More Indiana Legislature Headlines
- Capitol Crossroads: Indiana Democrats deal with education split