IBJOpinion

FEIGENBAUM: Thoughts turn to truncated state budget process

Ed Feigenbaum
March 19, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Ed FeigenbaumAs the legislative standoff continued, those who were concerned about policy turned their attention to the budget process.

The three distinct schools of thought about the budget process will probably be largely unaffected by how soon House Democrats return.

The prevalent line of thinking in the Senate appears focused upon developing a package that would look like a typical, traditional biennial budget. This would result in a budget bill that would be a fiscal document, based mostly upon HB 1001, the proposed budget passed by the House Committee on Ways and Means but left lingering in legislative limbo when House Democrats left the state long ago.

Such a budget would provide a fiscal framework for the operation of state government at lower expenditure levels the next two years, make certain adjustments to the Medicaid program, require the return by local governments of some tax overpayments from the state (although the repayment schedule will almost certainly be massaged in the Senate to offer more favorable terms and avoid undue hardships for harder-hit communities).

This budget would also recalibrate the school funding formula from one that only a few people truly understand and most rail against (because it protects urban and rural districts losing students) to one that most people will understand but still rail against (because money follows students and favors growing suburban districts).

As we’ve suggested, this budget could incorporate some planned House Republican tweaking that might have been undertaken on the House floor had there been an opportunity for Second Reading amendments at the end of February. And it might address some relevant concerns evinced by Senate Democrats, perhaps acting by proxy for their absent House counterparts.

Another way the budget may be constructed would be to turn it into the proverbial legislative Christmas tree, loading it with assorted policy measures that failed to survive the walkout. While this practice is traditionally frowned upon in the Senate (and theoretically barred by the Constitution), the circumstances may drive the Senate to justify some bending of the germaneness rules and that body’s preference for keeping the budget “clean.”

Besides, Hoosier appellate courts are loath to intervene and find violations of the single-subject matter restrictions on legislation—particularly in the budget bill—and the Senate itself has wrapped up redistricting with the budget before under the pretense that both were constitutional responsibilities.

Expect impatient House Republican freshmen to be the strongest advocates for this strategy. They want their agenda advanced, they see House Democrats as disrupting the process and denying democracy, and they aren’t quite as concerned as their more temperate colleagues in the upper chamber about comporting with rules and tradition—particularly after seeing Democrats run roughshod over their favored legislation.

But the more senior and moderate faction at the helm of the Senate is not likely to accede too much in the way of loading up the budget bill with provisions more appropriately found in separate stand-alone bills, regardless of circumstances.

The sole exception: education matters. Bear in mind just how hard Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett have campaigned for charter school expansion and a new voucher-based school choice program. They are not likely to abandon the crusade, and even House Democrats appear willing to settle for a limited voucher experiment (perhaps assuming there are enough Senate Republican concerns with it to force it to a summer study panel).

Finally, there is the budget perspective that House Democrats appear to have adopted—or resigned themselves to.

The new minority understands that new programs can’t be added, and current programs won’t see funding increased. Democrats were looking at moving dollars among silos at best, and were privately conceding that regardless of funding levels approved in the budget, Daniels could unilaterally decide to withhold all or some funding.

From their perspective at this point, the budget now becomes more of an aspirational document than a fiscal blueprint. Their concerns over labor- and education-related matters were policy battles that, unlike the budget, truly meant something, and were thus worthy of their real efforts.

Public testimony at forthcoming Senate budget hearings may prove more interesting this year than ever before, but its impact again remains questionable.•

__________

Feigenbaum publishes Indiana Legislative Insight. His column appears weekly while the Indiana General Assembly is in session. He can be reached at edf@ingrouponline.com.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

ADVERTISEMENT