It’s a budget year at the Indiana Statehouse, meaning lawmakers will be figuring out how the state will spend its money over the next two years.
This year will be especially challenging for lawmakers, says Chris Watts with the non-partisan Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute. He says that with the pandemic throwing a huge monkey wrench in spending last year, there will be much less to work within the next two years.
“You’ve got to find $100 million in cuts from somewhere from a pretty thin sliver of spending,” Watts said.
That’s on top of the already $700 million worth of spending cuts the state has already made. Watts said the state did a good job with those cuts because it allowed Indiana to rebuild it’s depleting surplus.
“It’s amazing that we rebuilt the state’s surplus on the fly during COVID,” said Watts. “We’ve now rebuilt the state’s surplus to pretty much where it was at the end of the fiscal year 2019.”
That was roughly $2 billion. The state had eaten roughly $850 million of that away when the COVID shutdowns were in full effect in order to help Hoosiers and business navigate through that time period.
Now, Watts said there are many details that lawmakers will have to iron out. He said one of the things that likely needs to be sufficiently funded is workforce development programs.
“You’ve got about a billion dollars worth of workforce development programs that haven’t been part of this conversation which I think now are more important than ever when you talk about the number of workers that have been displaced by the pandemic,” Watts said.
He also said they will likely have to find some sort of financial help for teachers, whether it be through raises, or other financial means.