But the budget-writing process is aptly explained by noted fiscal expert Sean “P. Diddy” Combs: “It’s all about the Benjamins.” As lawmakers digest the November revenue report and study the 2018-19 forecast, this session’s big ideas come with big questions:
How optimistic are fiscal leaders?
November revenues again fell below monthly estimates, with a year-to-date shortfall more than $112M (driven primarily by sales and corporate tax deficits). The new 2018-19 forecast, on the other hand, projects revenue growth of roughly $1B over the next biennium.
This leaves legislators in a quandary: Act boldly on pre-K and other priorities according to the forecast, or use recent reports as a reason for incrementalism or inaction? The Indy Chamber will continue to push for a real pre-K program with an initial investment of $50M – not just an expansion of the existing pilot,which serves only one of every seven eligible 3-4 year-olds locally.
Will long-term investments survive short-term politics?
Another question mark is the political calculus around infrastructure funding. House Republicans have unveiled a long-term blueprint using a gas tax increase, tolls and user fees to yield $800M for this budget cycle (and allow revenues to rise with inflation thereafter).
Governor Holcomb is “very pleased” with the approach – but it’s getting the attention of both anti-tax groups and some Democratic lawmakers who want a broader overhaul of the tax system. GOP leaders are stepping up with a responsible revenue strategy for a critical need; the business community should help push this plan forward through the political gauntlet.
Focus on the future, or make divisive detours?
There’s consensus around the importance of infrastructure and pre-K. The Indy Chamber has also applauded the concept (advanced with different funding by Governor Pence and now Governor Holcomb) of a billion-dollar initiative for entrepreneurship and high-growth companies. This dovetails with our Accelerate Indy economic strategy, which emphasizes ‘homegrown’ business success and innovation.
This session has great potential to include important investments in the two-year budget. But we have to be vigilant about divisive issues turning the session into a sideshow – several introduced bills have negative potential for our business climate and reputation.
Finding the right answers:
These are just a few of the questions swirling around the next few months at the Statehouse. The Business Advocacy team will be working to make sure the final answers are good for business and consistent with your Indy Chamber 2017 Legislative Agenda.
Check your inbox or www.IndyChamber.com for weekly updates on this agenda: A sustainable solution for infrastructure; investing in pre-K, STEM and workforce initiatives that develop career-ready talent; competitive incentives and innovation-friendly policies; local government reform and revenue equity, and other issues – including playing defense against proposals that put Indy’s inclusive environment at risk.
Finishing strong on Marion County transit:
As the action heats up at the Statehouse, we’re still pushing towards the finish line in our campaign for expanded, modern mass transit in Marion County. At the January 9th City-County Council meeting, the transit funding proposal will be introduced and assigned to committee – let’s show the grassroots support that led to a resounding victory in the November referendum (nearly 60% of the vote, majorities in 19 Council districts).
The next two months will feature a series of hearings (starting on January 17th at the Administration and Finance Committee) before we anticipate a final vote on February 27th.
It’s time for ‘all hands on deck’ to advocate for the full quarter-percent tax to implement the Marion County Transit Plan that voters have embraced. There is bipartisan support for connecting residents with employment, education, and other daily needs with transit options – but supporters need to stay active and visible.
Join us Monday evening at the City-County Building (200 East Washington St.), get engaged and find updates @Transit4Indy, or contact your Councillor directly.