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Indiana budget may soon balance

Friday, January 13, 2006

Indiana's off-budget deficit continues to hover around $19 billion, but the Indiana legislature may soon balance the state's operating budget for the first time in 10 years, according to District 44 State Representative Andy Thomas.

Thomas said the state's revenues in 2006 have exceeded early projections, and receipts from the tax amnesty program in 2005 have put the state on the fast track to erasing its long-standing budget deficit. In his second State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Mitch Daniels projected the deficit, over a half-billion dollars when the governor took office, would become a surplus by June 30.

Thomas said the state generated $250 million in revenue through the tax amnesty program, and potential sources of revenue Daniels outlined Wednesday, including the possible lease of the Indiana Toll Road and a 25 cent-per-pack cigarette tax, could further ease the state's fiscal woes.

Thomas said a balanced budget would allow the legislature to address items placed on the back burner during leaner times.

"(Once the budget is balanced) we can take a look at funding issues that have been on hold for a long time," he said.

In addition to bearing up the state budget, monies obtained through the tax amnesty initiative will directly impact Clay County residents, specifically educators and their students. Thomas issued a press release Friday announcing the distribution of tax amnesty dollars to District 44 schools.

The Clay Community School Corporation will receive $778,002, the second largest amount awarded to a District 44 system. The Governor's office will release the funds beginning Feb. 1.

Thomas acknowledged the sum would not solve the deep-seated financial problems in Clay County's schools but represented an effort on the part of state-level government to address community-level concerns, specifically education.

We realize this money will only eliminate a portion of Putnam and Clay counties' school debt," Thomas stated. "However, we will continue to work with Gov. Daniels to lessen the financial burden these schools are facing."

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