Indiana House passes $291M surplus spending bill

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The Indiana House has approved a spending bill that uses $291 million in surplus dollars to pay for several capital projects at higher education institutions with cash instead of issuing debt.

The vote came Monday after several failed attempts by House Democrats to amend the legislation and use the money for teacher pay bonuses and other “human capital” proposals, such as pre-kindergarten education and school safety.

The bill passed 77-21, with 11 Democrats joining Republicans in passing the measure. It moves to the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate, where GOP leaders have already signaled support.

House Bill 1007, authored by House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown, provides cash funding for six capital projects:

  • $73 million for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine teaching hospital;
  • $62 million for Indiana University for bicentennial projects;
  • $59.9 million for the Ball State University STEM and Health Professions facilities;
  • $30 million for the Ivy Tech Columbus main building replacement;
  • $18.4 million for renovation of Dreiser Hall at Indiana State University, and;
  • ;$48 million for the University of Southern Indiana Health Professions classroom renovation, and the rest to pay off some existing debt obligations.

Republicans killed all the Democratic-proposed amendments when the bill was considered before the House Ways & Means Committee and on the House floor last week.

Brown and other Republican leaders have argued that this the best way to use the extra cash, as opposed to something like teacher pay, because all of the projects are one-time expenses and were already approved in the 2019-2021 budget.

By paying for the projects with cash instead of issuing debt, state officials estimate it could save the state more than $130 million over 20 years.

“I’ve heard that we should borrow because we can,” House Speaker-elect Todd Huston said. “That’s certainly worked out for all those folks with credit card debt … or for all our neighboring states that borrowed because they can.”

The state ended fiscal year 2019 with a surplus of $410 million, which prompted Gov. Eric Holcomb to suggest the state could spend some of the unexpected money. The $410 million surplus brought reserves up to $2.27 billion, or nearly 14% of current-year expenditures. Spending $291 million would drop reserves to about 12%.

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