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!