INDIANAPOLIS – The state closed its books June 30 with the most money it has ever had in reserves - $2.27 billion.
That is equal to about 14 percent of expenditures.
The amount was buoyed by an unexpectedly good last quarter of tax collections – and Gov. Eric Holcomb is already planning on how to spend about $300 million of that surplus on special projects.
But it won't be on teacher pay – the hot-button issue that has fueled Democrats in Indiana and the nation.
Cris Johnston, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, said the state can't spend one-time dollars on an ongoing expenditure like teacher salaries.
But paying cash for building projects – instead of bonding and paying debt service each year – does free up capacity in the future for ongoing needs, he said.
“We will work over the next six months to demonstrate how the ongoing savings can be best used for tackling our priorities in the next budget, such as providing meaningful increases in teacher compensation so Indiana is competitive with neighboring Midwestern states,” Holcomb said in a release.
House Democrat Greg Porter, of Indianapolis, said back in April Republicans talked about a risk of shortfalls in revenue and how that would prevent some programs from getting funding.
“Now we find that things aren't so bad after all…like usual,” he said. “These closeouts are supposed to be occasions for celebration. I think that they should be ashamed and embarrassed that they prize hoarding money over improving human infrastructure.”
Among the projects Holcomb wants to use reserves on are:
- Finishing the free-flow of U.S. 31;
- $50 million for the swine barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds;
- $73 million for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine teaching hospital;
- $60 million for the Ball State University STEM and Health Professions facilities;
- $30 million for the Ivy Tech Columbus main building replacement.
Lawmakers will have to approve of that spending in 2020. Even after that, though reserves would be nearly $2 billion, or 12.2 percent of expenditures.