Despite shortfalls, state revenue is trending in the right direction

By Erica Irish
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — State revenue fell short in some areas in January 2019, according to the latest revenue forecast.

But it’s unlikely the shortfalls will have a major effect on budget priorities, said Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, co-chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“We’re trending in the right way with our forecast,” Huston said. “There’s always going to be little variables, but there was nothing there that was too dramatic.”

Revenue earned from alcohol sales failed to meet its monthly estimate by 9.7 percent, totaling at $11.6 million. Over all, general fund revenues last month were nearly $1.5 billion, which is 2.5 percent below the amount forecast in December and 6.8 percent below revenue in January 2018.

The tax revenue shortages follow proposals for increased funds to the Department of Child Services, teacher salaries and school security, among other projects. Republican lawmakers in the House have said they want to pursue each of these items while maintaining the state’s balanced budget, a goal that is now a constitutional requirement thanks to a referendum question that was approved in the 2018 general election.

Providing funding for DCS and teacher pay remains a challenge in the General Assembly. Most recent analyses show DCS needs an additional $286 million over the next two fiscal years to better divide caseloads and prevent staff turnover.

State Republicans have said repeatedly that they will commit to securing adequate funding for K-12 resources, “which accounts for over half of the state’s $32 billion biennial budget,” according to a January press releaseby House Republicans.

Last week, lawmakers on the Senate Public Policy committee passed a sweeping bill that could enhance the state’s gaming industry. There, legislators were hopeful the measure, which would legalize sports betting in Indiana and promote casino growth in Terre Haute and Gary, could boost revenue totals in the years to come.

But a key gaming revenue source — riverboat admissions — is also bringing in fewer dollars, according to the January revenue report. Riverboat admissions earned the state $7.1 million in January, 3.4 percent lower than its monthly estimate.

Huston did not give a clear answer as to when House Republicans will present their version of the state’s two-year budget. The deadline is Feb. 19.

Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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