William "Bill" Styring III, an economist, author and pundit who was influential in crafting and analyzing Indiana policy, died Monday after battling a brief illness. He was 72.
Styring, an Indianapolis native, had a long and influential career in Indiana conservative politics while steering clear of elected office.
He was chief of staff for the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee from 1969-1974, economist for the Indiana Budget Agency from 1974-1979, and chaired the Indiana Revenue Forecast Committee from 1976-1984.
He was the architect of former Gov. Otis "Doc" Bowen’s 1973 property tax relief plan. In 1992, he became the Benjamin Rogge Chair for Public Policy at the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. He also was senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank that was headquartered in Indianapolis from 1984 to 2004. Styring is also the only non-CPA ever elected to the Board of the Indiana CPA Society.
“He’s probably an unsung educator to folks in the public sector regarding fiscal responsibility,” said Cecil Bohanon, a Ball State University professor who has been a friend and colleague of Styring's for 30 years. "He was very influential in educating legislators on simple economic concepts and on the nature of forecasting and revenue management in the state of Indiana. One of the reasons Indiana is very strong is we’ve always had a balanced budget; we’ve learned how to build up surpluses and keep them. His advocacy and education has to be part all of that.”
Styring was vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce in the late 1980s and early 1990s, lobbying the Statehouse on taxes. He graduated magna cum laude from Wabash College in 1967 and received a master’s degree from Harvard University in economics.
Styring also authored a weekly economic column with Bohanon for IBJ. Their latest column, published Nov. 4, expressed skepticism about “the American obsession with ranking everything from steakhouses to museums to schools." Their final column together will appear in this weekend's IBJ.
Bohanon said “I’ll miss him like hell” and noted that as recently as Friday, Styring was engaged in issues of public policy.
Bohanon said that when he visited Styring in the hospital, he read him a Wall Street Journal article about the U.S. House Republicans' tax-reform plan. And Styring came up with several ideas for future columns.
“When I visited him Friday in the hospital, he was cracking jokes,” Bohanon said. “He never took himself too seriously, but he took himself seriously enough and he believed in his principles."
Styring is survived by his wife, Ellen, and three adult children.