This Isn’t Governing–It’s Pandering

When he was alive, Harrison Ullmann, a former editor of NUVO, always referred to the Indiana General Assembly as “The World’s Worst Legislature.” I know a lot of states have been competing for the title lately, but he wasn’t far off.

When I was scanning the (embarrassingly thin) news covered by the Indianapolis Star, I saw that the Republicans who have gerrymandered a super-majority in Indiana’s General Assembly are preparing for the upcoming session by discussing plans to cut taxes. After all, thanks to the federal administration they routinely excoriate, the state is currently flush.

The House is considering both a reduction in business equipment property taxes and income tax rate reduction. Senate leaders have at least committed to evaluating whatever legislation the House sends their way. 

Indiana ended its 2021 fiscal year at the start of July with nearly $4 billion in reserves due in part to an influx of stimulus money, unintentionally triggering an automatic refund to taxpayers worth $545.3 million. Since then, revenues have exceeded April estimates by over $560 million…

House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, wants to see a longer lasting tax cut — assuming revenues continue to exceed expectations —  instead of relying on another automatic refund to give taxpayers more money in their pockets.

“My biggest fear is if we keep it, we’ll spend it,”  Huston said Monday during the Indiana Chamber’s Legislative Preview.

Well, goodness gracious Mr. Huston–we taxpaying citizens sure wouldn’t want that! We wouldn’t want to see you use any of those dollars to patch a few of the gaping holes in Indiana’s pathetic social safety net (TANF pays a munificent $130 per month to households with one parent and one child).

We Hoosiers know it would be too picky to expect you to earmark some of those funds to maintain any of the roads and bridges that the federal infrastructure bill will finally repair–you know, the infrastructure you “fiscal conservatives” have ignored for years.

For that matter, it is highly unlikely that the federal bill will provide Indiana with monies to repair all the crumbling roads and dangerously deteriorated bridges that need such repair. In a state served by a less irresponsible legislature, those “extra” funds might actually be put to that use. (There are 19,327 bridges in the state, and over 1100 of them are classified as structurally deficient. The state has identified 3,198 that need repairs, and has estimated the cost of doing those repairs at $2.3 billion. The feds are highly unlikely to cover all of that–even with a Hoosier as Transportation Secretary.)

We also wouldn’t want to use that money to improve public education, or to replace any of the education funding that Indiana’s legislature has siphoned off and sent to private, mostly religious schools. After all, we aren’t (yet) the worst–Indiana ranks 47th among the states for per pupil spending. That means there are three states worse than us, so no worries, right? And we do even better in teacher pay–why, we are way up there at 38th!

I hate to break it to you, GOP legislators, but “fiscally conservative”lawmakers don’t continue to ignore the multiple needs of the state in order to use an obviously temporary influx of dollars to reward the business interests that donate to their campaigns. They don’t cut taxes so that they can plead poverty when urban areas need added funds for public safety or public works, and so they can keep telling teachers the state can’t afford to pay them competitively. 

Fiscally prudent lawmakers establish sinking funds to retire bonds, plan for the ongoing maintenance of infrastructure, and pay TANF recipients enough to buy food and diapers. They fund education adequately, recognizing the importance of an educated workforce and polity. They don’t act like pigs in slop, “spending” a temporary windfall to curry favor with their donors and supporters while shortchanging everyone else.

Honest to goodness, Indiana! Stop proving Harrison Ullmann’s point!


  1. What could have been the crown jewel of the United States has become under Republican rule a crumpling lump of dirty coal. Terribly sad.

  2. Indiana is the 2nd most polluted state in the union. Considering we just completed COP26 with nothing to show for it, maybe Indiana could invest in cleaning herself up. I mean that would require the government actually doing its job of holding the private sector accountable like forcing the energy and food sectors to clean up their act. Maybe the IndyStar could point out all the top polluters. LOL

    I wouldn’t mind cutting taxes but something tells me the big polluters will have their hands out first.

  3. My dad was an elected official who as an educator saw how locals wanted education funds ro widen roads for businesses. He blocked them from doing it, and they ran someone against him in his own party, sound familiar. The addition of teaching assistants in schools would greatly increase the students scores by keeping them on task. Even if a an assistant spent their time between two or three classrooms it would greatly help. Schools in a lower SES neighborhoods need funde especially as parents are not as involved and children are neglected.
    Semis and heavy vehicles should only be allowed on our highways except for deliveries and funds for maintaining them.
    Again legislatures that don’t get a broader sense by reaching across the aisle aren’t able to govern for the people whether its at the local, state or federal level.
    Change should come slowly so people don’t end up losing out. When Obamacare was passed I lost my plan that would insure me during an extended illness. Now if I font show up every week I immediately lose my insurance. Change effects those who supported politicians that were eager to pass legislation that hurt them.
    So Pelosi was right, I found out what was in that bill after it was passed.

  4. Take heart, Hoosiers. There’s always Texas to bail you out as the most idiotic, corrupt and moronic state legislature. As long as Texas Republicans run that show, you’re safe from hitting bottom.

    How sad that so much corruption has affected so many otherwise good people that they keep electing corrupt Republicans who have NO intention of governing, only retaining power. Pathetic.

  5. When Indiana announce they were refunding money to every tax payer, I was irritated to say the least. These are taxes we have already paid and as Sheila pointed out, there are so many things that still need help. I would have been all for uping the state allocation to ALL local governmental entities just to get the money in the hands of people that might be able to use it to make more intelligent choices (I know, I am reaching here).

    Here is what I imagine the conversation is at the state house: Inflation hurts the Biden, what can we do to immediately cause more inflation? Give more people cash to spend! A vaccine will help the economy and a good economy will help Biden, what can we do to keep that from happening? Spread vaccine misinformation! Angry racist voters get out and vote and they vote Republican, how can we energize them? Create new laws to ban stuff that school boards are not pushing anyway!

    You get the picture. It is all partisan pandering, with no clue that government is supposed to help all Indiana citizens and not just the party donors.

  6. According to Joe on “Morning Joe” the Republicans, meaning Trump, are 10 points ahead of Democrats, meaning President Biden, in polls. Just sayin’

  7. Harrison was one of the most astute commentators on the state, not only of our state, but also of the nation writ large. Perhaps that’s why the legislature feels compelled to live down to his estimation of them.

    BTW, Harrison spent many hours decrying the lack of water in the western states and urging us to work on this issue as one of the most important of our lives. Now as we see images of reservoirs and lakes 30 or more feet below normal, we are finally beginning to consider conservation of water as essential.

  8. is the SALT cap and how does the Build Back Better Plan give the wealthy a huge tax break at the federal level. Its a $285 billion tax break for the wealthiest people enough to pay for the paid leave program according to the Washingto Post.

  9. Vernon … having a pleasant childhood and growing up in West Texas … now retired here in Indiana, there is one national ranking where Texas and surprisingly Indiana shows up ranked #1 and #2.
    There are just too many roads in Indiana where the jurisdiction of the wildlife game warden comes right up to the edge of the asphalt. Quality of roads and bridges are indicators of good governance along with quality schools, libraries and safety nets that ensures everyone a ‘fair shake’.

  10. And I thought Florida was so bad! Well, it is, but….

    There is gerrymandering, and there is:
    “The forest was shrinking but the trees kept voting for the ax because its handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.”

  11. I don’t know about that worst-legislature prize. Your neighbor Michigan is definitely in the running, with a quasi-permanently gerrymandered Republican majority whose leader, Mike Shirkey, openly associates with violent lunatics plotting to kidnap and assassinate the governor, colludes with Trumpist attempts to subvert national elections in defiance of the will of the majority, and openly encourages seditious activity by white-supremacist militias.

  12. Yeah, I’m not buying the claim we are shortchanging public education. Half our state and local property taxes go to K-12 schools. When I worked on education issues for a gubernatorial candidate which, admittedly, was some time ago, I found that K-12 spending had increased far above the inflation rate for over the previous 30 years. I don’t think that’s changed.

    I looked at several other sources for state rankings on K-12 spending and in none of them does Indiana rank anywhere near 47th. Most of them have Indiana in the middle of the pack, not in the top half, but near the top of the second half. For example, here is a ranking by the Education Law Center which gives Indiana “Cs” in “Funding Level,” “Funding Distribution” and “Funding Effort.” Some 20 or so states receive a “D” or “F.”

    The fact is we pour money into K-12 schools, we just don’t spend it very well. Administrative bloat is a huge problem sucking out education resources. Every see the list of IPS administrative types and how much money they are making? Indiana is also a leader in new school construction. We are constantly knocking down 20 – 30 year old buildings to build new schools.

  13. Yeah, the “worst legislature” moniker is kind of silly. Every one in the United States thinks their state legislature is the worst. I think it would be hard to top Texas.

  14. Norris, I think you’re reading that table wrong. Texas and Indiana rate as the two BEST driving states. Hawaii and California are the two worst states states for driving.

  15. GOP legislative supermajorities are the equivalent of mini-Hitlers and the rest of us are cast in the role of “Good Germans.” I have had conversations with an Indiana Democratic state senator who describes the Senate as a political “cesspool,” one in which the minority is ignored and one in which even the vetoes of their own governor can be easily overriden. Thus we see that it is not only the executive branch which can wax dictatorial with the acquisition of total power; the legislative branch can usurp Madisonian idealism as well.

    So what to do about gerrymandering and propaganda? (1)Organization. Turnout. (2) See (1).

  16. Hmm. What could they do with that tax payer money instead of refunding people? You are so right Shiela. They could work on infrastructure, the social safety net, and funding for education that would also raise teacher’s salaries. They could also add school guidance counselors which are badly needed because of the pandemic and Facebook’s refusal to ensure that teens do not have damaged mental health from the posts they see.

    We could also restore pension payment to retirees who worked for the state. We could increase and expand health care coverage to those in need of it. We could increase the pay of public health nurses and caregivers. We could move toward decreasing pollution( a real health hazard) and global warming.

    We could do lots of positive things for our state. But instead they will give taxpayers refunds who will then spend more and further contribute to global warming with their spending. I wonder if those refunds will contribute to inflation in prices?

    Since my medicaid match LTC insurance premium will increase 30% next year, my increase in social security won’t help with the inflation in the price of food, etc. The increased premium will also increase my deduction for my state income tax.

    Time for me to get very fiscally conservative and try to change so that I only spend money on what I REALLY need. Food, clothing, shelter, insurance, utilities, car maintenance. And gift giving at Christmas? Hmm. Home made gifts that are far less polluting and far less expensive. Or maybe I will just give to charities for people who need food, clothing, shelter.

  17. Don’t forget that we just saw a report this week showing that 30% of Indiana counties do not have delivery rooms. In a State where mothers and newborns die … a lot.

  18. Further REPLY (May I do this?:)

    In support of my cult thesis, as earlier, keep in mind that we only recently saw quite a few fellow citizens, who apparently could walk a straight line, stop at stop signs…congregate at Dealy Plaza to personally witness the return of J.F.K. Jr.!!! Is that not mind-blowing, or have we already become inured to craziness on the part of the Q/Trump crowd?

    Lastly, check out “The Five Laws of Stupidity:”

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