A question about requiring lawmakers to pass a balanced state budget will be on the top of Indiana ballots this November.
(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - Hoosier voters will decide next month whether they want to amend the state’s constitution to require lawmakers pass a balanced budget.
The constitutional amendment question will be at the top of Hoosiers' ballots this 2018 general election, asking them to choose "yes" or "no". As required for constitutional amendments, it has already passed two consecutive General Assemblies at the Statehouse and now the state’s voters get the final say on whether it becomes law.
The constitutional amendment ballot question reads as follows:
"Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a super majority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?"
If history is any indication, there’s a good chance the balanced budget amendment will pass. The state’s voters have passed all 11 constitutional amendments which have appeared on the ballot since 1996.
State Representative Randy Lyness (R-West Harrison) voted to pass the amendment through the House and send it on to voters. He says is probably not necessary now because the state handles its finances responsibly, but he wants to be sure that continues.
“This will keep us in line, it doesn’t let us spend money we don’t have, it doesn’t burden the generations behind us,” says Lyness.
The ballot question asks whether the Indiana Constitution should be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt a balanced budget, unless two-thirds of the House and Senate vote otherwise.
“The text defines revenues and appropriations, then says that the total appropriations enacted by the General Assembly can’t be more than the estimated revenues during the two-year biennium,” says Purdue University Professor of Agricultural Economics Larry DeBoer. “It goes on to say that if revenues fall short of estimates, the shortfall must be made up in the next biennium. And there’s that clause about the two-thirds vote requirement to make exceptions.”
Unions in the state, including the Indiana State Teachers Association, are asking voters to defeat the amendment on Election Day. The association calls it a solution in search of a problem.
“It is too simplistic to try to equate government accounting with household accounting — especially when essential services for Hoosiers are at stake. Besides, the Indiana General Assembly already takes ample precautions to secure responsible and balanced budgets,” the union said in a statement this week.
Some opponents have stated that the amendment could lead to cuts to what the state pays into public employee pensions. But, even the ISTA admits that is inaccurate.
On Monday, the Indiana Public Retirement System issued a statement to help voters better understand the amendment’s impact on pensions.
“First, it’s important to know that this amendment has no impact on the pension funds for firefighters, teachers or police officers. The amendment would require the legislature to actuarially fund the pre-funded pensions that the state of Indiana’s budget is responsible for,” the IPRS said, adding that those funds include the Public Employees Retirement Fund and Teachers Retirement Fund.
“Actuarially funded” means that money is set aside today to fund projected benefits years in the future.
IPRS says the amendment has no impact on pay-as-you-go funds and funds that are not paid into by the state of Indiana’s biennial budget.
DeBoer says that the amendment includes clauses requiring pension liabilities to be fully funded and forbidding courts from ordering the state to raise revenues or cut spending.