Did the Indiana Republican Party just figure out there's a governor's race or is Democrat governor hopeful John Gregg's criticism of Gov. Mitch Daniels' fiscal errors just getting to them?
Gregg has been hitting the administration hard since it was revealed last week that the state mistakenly held $206 million in revenue that belonged to local government. That was on top of a $320 million corporate tax error found in December – bringing the financial miscues to half a billion.
Gregg even held a press conference offering accounting workbooks and textbooks to the Daniels administration, and eventually forced his Republican gubernatorial opponent U.S. Rep. Mike Pence to comment.
So on Monday the state GOP started hitting back.
First they sent out a release trying to tie Gregg to a nearly $300 million homestead tax credit goof discovered in 2003. State officials essentially miscalculated the credit for 17 years – starting back in 1985 when Republican Gov. Bob Orr was in charge – and extending into two other governor's administrations.
Gregg wasn't even in the Indiana House until 1987 and left in 2002 before the error was discovered – by Democrat fiscal analysts, we might add.
Yet Indiana Republican Party Chairman Eric Holcomb said "now we know why Speaker Gregg bought a copy of 'Accounting for Dummies' - he needed it so he doesn't make the same mistakes again. We'll be sure to send him a highlighter."
Then on Tuesday the state party sent out a "flashback" release criticizing Gregg for voting for hundreds of millions in delayed payments for schools and local governments when he was speaker of the Indiana House.
And they point out accurately that Gov. Frank O'Bannon refused to sign the budget (which was also approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.)
Delayed payments are a bookkeeping tactic that pushes those costs into the next budget cycle in order to meet the constitutional requirement of a balanced budget at the end of a fiscal year.
The maneuver – which was widely used before Daniels took over - added short-term borrowing costs for schools and governments. But in the end they got the money.
"Speaker Gregg is trying to gloss over the facts with a wink and a smile, but his record is one we won't forget. He is responsible for some of Indiana's biggest fiscal blunders including the days of delayed payments to schools and local governments," Holcomb said. "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones."
By comparison, Daniels cut $300 million in school funding in 2010 and continued the cut in 2011, resulting in a total loss of $450 million in the last biennium.
Wonder which schools would prefer – late money or no money at all?