Mayor Greg Ballard plans to sign a $1 billion budget plan approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council earlier this month, but only after using his line-item veto powers to kill major portions of it, including the council’s plan to recruit a new class of police and firefighters.
“We’ve been in pretty intense and repeated discussions with the council over the last 10 days, and it’s pretty clear we’re not able to reach agreement,” Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn said Friday morning while announcing the mayor's intentions. Friday is the deadline for the mayor to act on the council’s budget plan.
Ballard will use the line-item veto to eliminate $32 million in county-option income tax revenue from the Marion County general fund, which covers the sheriff, auditor and prosecutor’s offices, among other functions. Vaughn said he hopes that will bring council Democrats to the table to discuss solutions to an ongoing structural deficit.
Ballard also will veto a police and fire recruiting fund, which the council set up to receive money from the Capital Improvement Board’s anticipated $15 million payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT. So even if CIB officials, who vehemently oppose the PILOT, were to make the payment, there would be no way for the council to spend it.
A consortium of countywide Democratic elected officials hammered Ballard's plan in a statement Friday afternoon as "my way or the highway politics."
"It is reckless, irresponsible, and in fact unlawful for the mayor to decide to cut critical services like prosecution of crimes, death investigations, court administration and child support," Democrats said in the release. It posits that Indiana Code prohibits the mayor from vetoing any part of the budget for countywide officers specified in the state constitution or for judicial offices or officers.
Officials who signed the statement include Auditor Billie Breaux, Assessor Joe O'Connor, Coroner Frank Lloyd, Prosecutor Terry Curry and Sheriff John Layton.
Democratic City-County Councilor Angela Mansfield, who also is chairwoman of the council's administration and finance committee, said earlier on Friday that Vaughn didn’t make much effort to work out a compromise before the council adopted its budget. “I think they’ve been playing a game of chicken,” she said.
The Capital Improvement Board runs Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, and funds entities like VisitIndy, which promotes the city's hospitality and convention business. Council Democrats targeted the CIB’s reserve fund after rejecting Ballard’s plan to close the 2013 budget gap in part by eliminating the homestead property-tax credit. The credit, which generates an average annual homeowner savings of $20, is different from the more significant homestead deduction.
The council didn’t present Ballard with the CIB budget ordinance, which is separate from the city’s budget, but Vaughn said Ballard will issue a memo stating he believes he has the authority to veto it.
Finally, Ballard will veto the council’s $652,000 personnel budget, which covers a chief counsel and chief financial officer, and included $100,000 for a new redistricting plan. To pay staff, the council will have to submit an appropriations request after Jan. 1.
The council will have to do the same in order to keep funding level for county agencies. Vaughn said Ballard won’t approve the spending unless Democrats work with him to address an anticipated $35 million structural gap for 2014.
Ballard’s own budget had anticipated a $14 million gap for 2014, but the figure will grow if the city doesn't eliminate the homestead credit, which is worth about $9 million, and because the city will spend more than expected from the rainy day fund in 2013.
Ballard’s 2013 budget called for spending $17 million from the rainy day fund, which includes money that the state Department of Revenue realized it had failed to pay some cities and towns.