Legislators expect writing a new state budget to be harder than usual — and not just because there may be less money.
The pandemic is expected to reduce the money the state has to work with in a new two-year budget. But House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says it’ll also make it harder to predict how much money there will be. Not only must forecasters make their best guess at how much the economy will recover, but they also don’t know how much federal help the state can expect.
Legislative analysts will present their forecast this month, marking the informal start of the budget process. As always, they’ll update the forecast in April, a couple of weeks before the end of the session in April, as legislators make their final spending decisions.
Huston says it helps that all four budget negotiators — House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville), Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen), and ranking Democrats Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis and Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes — are veterans of past budgets.
Legislative leaders in both parties say it’s likely they’ll use at least some federal money to pay down what Indiana borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits. Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray says raising payroll taxes on employers to pay off that debt would undermine the effort to bounce back economically from the pandemic.
With seven months left in the current two-year budget, the state has taken in 300-million dollars less than expected.