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Governor discusses status of state budget

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels discusses the alphabet with 5-year-old Kamryn Hardey at the Double 'N Diner Wednesday. Jason Moon Photo. [Order this photo]
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels left the motorcycle at home Wednesday.

"This trip would have been great," Daniels said. "But I have too much ground to cover."

Daniels spent his day traveling the southern part of the state drumming up support for a state budget.

Daniels made a stop in Brazil at the Double 'N Diner before heading to Terre Haute.

The Indiana Senate passed a version of a new state budget Tuesday, setting the table for negotiations between state Senate and House leaders.

Lawmakers were unable to pass a budget during the regular session, which ended in April. A special session for lawmakers began June 11 and is set to end Tuesday. Lawmakers must come to a compromise on a state budget by that day before the current budget expires.

"I do feel optimistic," Daniels said. "If (Indiana House of Representatives Speaker Pat Bauer) would simply relax his iron grip and allow his people to vote their conscious."

According to Daniels, the current budget proposal offered by the Senate called for further compromises, including:

* Restoring funding for more than 30 programs,

* Meeting all requested parameters, and

* An insurance against government shutdown.

In contrast, Daniels said the budget proposal from the House did not show compromise.

Daniels said the House budget proposal called for tax increases and tapping into the state reserve.

Following his re-election, Daniels said he wanted to keep a state reserve set at $1 billion.

"That reserve is the taxpayers' last line of defense," Daniels said Wednesday. "I agreed to let them use some, but the House tried to spend it all.

"We're one of the few states with any reserves at all. We've got to have a savings account to fall back on."

On Wednesday, Daniels said he would sign a budget that did not include a tax increase, but allowed to keep at least $1 billion in the state reserve. He also called for no gimmicks, which he said included the "raiding" of the teachers pension fund and the Next Generation Trust Fund.

"We will not be bullied into a tax increase," Daniels said, adding a shutdown of state government would be "unacceptable."

"This is our way of saying we will not shut down the parks and we will not shut down state government," Daniels added. "We will not be blackmailed into bankruptcy."

Daniels said despite the Republican and Democrats' differences, he believed a bipartisan vote could be reached.

"We're close," he said. "We only need a handful of votes."

He said education spending has become a central issue regarding the budget. But, according to Daniels, his budget proposal calls for an increase in education spending.

However, Democrats have said the proposal calls for a decrease in funding.

On Wednesday, Daniels said most states across the nation are cutting education spending.

"We're trying to avoid this," Daniels said.

From his point of view, Daniels said that while on his many trips across the state, most people agree with his proposal.

"I have yet to have one person come up to me, and I've visited a lot of places, and say, 'go ahead, spend it all,'" Daniels said. "These next few days are really important, if we're going to protect our taxpayers and our economy."

Daniels pointed out that only four years ago, the state was fiscally broke during a good economy.

"We can't let that happen (again)," he said. "It really matters that we protect our budget and our taxpayers."

Regarding Jobs

On Wednesday, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said during a visit in Brazil that despite the tough economy the nation is facing, job growth in the state has maintained.

"The state entered the recession with a good reputation in business dealing," Daniels said. "That hasn't changed."

Daniels said the "in-flow" of new jobs in the state has not slowed. However, the number has been "overwhelmed" by all the job losses.

"We got shellacked," he said. "It will take a while to work our way back."

Daniels' Wednesday Brazil visit was the first of many pit stops for the Governor. He also planned to stop in Terre Haute, Evansville, Paoli, Corydon and New Albany.

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Gov Daniels has made some difficult choices. Not all I agree with but realize that if there is not money to spend, it can't be spent. He also realizes however that education is what is going to make the future of Indiana brighter and it is a long term goal instead of short term putting out fire style that so many politicians have.

I understand his wanting to that rainy day fund in place and substantial for insurance against possible future catastrophies but things are pretty dire now as well and an infusion into education may be necessary to keep that educational goal in place for long term improvement. Seems his formula for education funding works better in large urban districts but leaves small poorer ones lagging still. Tax base here just won't cover the decreased state support.

He's like a Dutch Uncle. Doesn't do what all would like him to but I feel he's looking out for the state as a whole and doing the best he can under the circumstances he's been given.

-- Posted by Jenny Moore on Thu, Jun 25, 2009, at 7:58 AM

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