Revenue shortfall expected to continue through two-year budget cycle

By Shelby Mullis
TheStatehouseFile.com

 INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana will see about $394 million less in its biennial revenue collections than projected in April 2017.

But the House Ways and Means Committee chairman said he isn’t worried because the state has a surplus and the reserves needed to “make adjustments as we need.”

“Indiana will have a balanced budget,” said Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. “We have the tools in place such that we will make priorities in the spending side of it. We have a budget framework in process that we passed in April.”

Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville. Photo by Shelby Mullis, TheStatehouseFile.com

The State Budget Agency unveiled its December revenue forecast Monday, which reveals that the state took in $13 million less in taxes than expected in November, putting it nearly $150 million below target over the first five months of the fiscal year.

The shortfall was revealed just as the director of the Indiana Department of Child Services quit after raising concerns about a lack of funding for the agency.

Mary Beth Bonaventure submitted her resignation to Gov. Eric Holcomb last week, saying that she could no longer stand by and watch Hoosier children “being systemically placed at risk, without the ability to help them.”

Bonaventure has served as director of the agency since 2013 after being appointed by former Gov. Mike Pence. She previously spent 31 years working in the Lake County juvenile system as a referee, magistrate and judge.

“I feel I am unable to protect children because of the position taken by your staff to cut funding and services to children in the midst of the opioid crisis,” she wrote in the Dec. 12 letter to Holcomb. “I choose to resign, rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and well-being of children who have nowhere else to turn.”

Brown said the agency had already received nearly half a billion dollars in extra funding over the last two to three years.

“Our concern is about kids and the opioid crisis and what happens to the kids but we have significantly increased caseworkers and the money expended,” Brown said. “We’ll just have to look at, is that the appropriate level?”

Indiana House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, D-Austin, responded to Bonaventure’s departure in a statement Monday, saying her exit raises “highly disturbing questions” about the current administration’s actions to protect children most at risk.

“To hear that the director of DCS is leaving that post because the administration is pursuing policies that ‘all but ensure children will die’ should give any reasonable person pause,” Goodin said in a statement.

“If it’s a choice between saving dollars or saving lives, there should be no debate here.”

Most of the shortfall in the two-year budget comes from corporate taxes, which are about $150 million below projections for the fiscal year.

“This forecast recognizes a decrease in corporate income tax revenue, which we’ve reported on over the past several months, and makes downward adjustments based upon federal economic data for wage growth,” said Micah Vincent, director of the state Office of Management and Budget, in a statement. “With this information, we will continue to carefully manage spending and keep Indiana in a strong fiscal position with the reserves needed to withstand a downturn in the economy.”

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

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