Final negotiations on Indiana budget start next week

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A $28 billion budget proposal that cleared the Indiana Senate on Thursday includes a way to fine boycotting lawmakers — a provision Democrats oppose — and doesn't include an automatic taxpayer refund that the Republican governor wants.

So they'll be plenty to talk about when lawmakers from the House and Senate try to hash out a compromise proposal before April 29, the last day of the legislative session.

Perhaps the most politically charged section of the budget plan would allow $1,000-a-day fines against boycotting legislators. Republicans who support the proposal say the so-called "anti-bolting statute" is needed to prevent boycotts, like the five-week walkout by House Democrats this year, from becoming a regular tactic.

Democratic senators, who are outnumbered 37-13 in the Senate, said the right to boycott is a crucial protection for the minority. They urged colleagues to remove the provision, which they've said may violate the Indiana Constitution.

"Republicans and Democrats have in some form exercised this right to withhold a quorum," said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. "I just don't think this is the way to approach this. It's sort of an emotional reaction to what happened."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he's willing to work on that part of the bill, but said the length of the House Democrats' boycott has spurred a call for some way to prevent similar walkouts.

"The dynamic here has been changed by the thought that somebody could leave for 30 days," Kenley said. "Something needs to be done."

While Republicans and Democrats spar over that issue, Republicans in the Senate are butting heads with fellow Republicans in the House over the governor's proposed taxpayer refund. Daniels has advocated the idea and included in his budget plan an automatic refund if state reserves exceed 10 percent of annual needs.

House Republicans kept the refund in their budget, and House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said he will fight for its return during budget negotiations.

"If the state is doing well because the taxpayers are paying lots of taxes, then I think it is appropriate to return part of that," Espich said.

Kenley maintains there are better ways to use extra money if the economy grows faster than expected. Under the Senate budget, if the general fund balance exceeds 12 percent of appropriations, the extra money would go to unfunded pension liabilities for teachers and public employees. Kenley said using any extra to pay down $11 billion in unfunded liabilities would help budgets for years to come.

"To fail to adequately pay off that large outstanding debt would leave our fiscal problems to the next generation," Kenley said.

The two-year budget, which would take effect July 1, would give slight funding increases to schools without raising taxes. The budget would leave Indiana with more than $1 billion in reserves. Some school advocates want more money directed to education and less left in reserves, but Kenley said the state isn't sure how much it will take in and doesn't want to spend money that may not materialize.

There are several other differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget, including proposed cuts to existing horse racing subsidies, but Kenley said many parts of the budget weren't drastically different.

"The numbers really aren't too far apart," he said.


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  1. Why not take some time to do some research before traveling to that Indiana town or city, and find the ones that are no smoking either inside, or have a patio? People like yourself are just being selfish, and unnecessarily trying to take away all indoor venues that smokers can enjoy themselves at. Last time I checked, it is still a free country, and businesses do respond to market pressure and will ban smoking, if there's enough demand by customers for it(i.e. Linebacker Lounge in South Bend, and Rack and Helen's in New Haven, IN, outside of Fort Wayne). Indiana law already unnecessarily forced restaurants with a bar area to be no smoking, so why not support those restaurants that were forced to ban smoking against their will? Also, I'm always surprised at the number of bars that chose to ban smoking on their own, in non-ban parts of Indiana I'll sometimes travel into. Whiting, IN(just southeast of Chicago) has at least a few bars that went no smoking on their own accord, and despite no selfish government ban forcing those bars to make that move against their will! I'd much rather have a balance of both smoking and non-smoking bars, rather than a complete bar smoking ban that'll only force more bars to close their doors. And besides IMO, there are much worser things to worry about, than cigarette smoke inside a bar. If you feel a bar is too smoky, then simply walk out and take your business to a different bar!

  2. As other states are realizing the harm in jailing offenders of marijuana...Indiana steps backwards into the script of Reefer Madness. Well...you guys voted for your Gov...up to you to vote him out. Signed, Citizen of Florida...the next state to have medical marijuana.

  3. It's empowering for this niche community to know that they have an advocate on their side in case things go awry. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lrst9VXVKfE

  4. Apparently the settlement over Angie's List "bundling" charges hasn't stopped the practice! My membership is up for renewal, and I'm on my third email trying to get a "basic" membership rather than the "bundled" version they're trying to charge me for. Frustrating!!

  5. Well....as a vendor to both of these builders I guess I have the right to comment. Davis closed his doors with integrity.He paid me every penny he owed me. Estridge,STILL owes me thousands and thousands of dollars. The last few years of my life have been spent working 2 jobs, paying off the suppliers I used to work on Estridge jobs and just struggling to survive. Shame on you Paul...and shame on you IBJ! Maybe you should have contacted the hundreds of vendors that Paul stiffed. I'm sure your "rises from the ashes" spin on reporting would have contained true stories of real people who have struggled to find work and pay of their debts (something that Paul didn't even attempt to do).