Indiana lawmakers send surplus-spending bill to Holcomb

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Just three weeks into the legislative session, Indiana lawmakers have spent a bill to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature.

The Senate on Thursday voted 38-8 to approve a bill that allows the state to use $291 million in surplus dollars to pay for six capital projects at higher education institutions instead of issuing debt.

The House passed the bill earlier this month. The Senate did not make any amendments to the bill, despite repeated attempts from Senate Democrats to instead designate the money for teacher pay. The bill heads directly to Holcomb, who can sign it, veto it or let it pass into law without his signature.

House Bill 1007, authored by House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown, provides cash funding for the following:

  • $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.

The bill moved through the Indiana General Assembly faster than usual. The chambers usually wait until the halfway point of the session to consider legislation that originated in the opposite chamber.

“We said from the start that this was going to be a very prompt session,” House Speaker Brian Bosma said. “That’s a bill that we all think is wise fiscal policy, and the Senate agrees with that, and we’re going to get it on the governor’s desk and move on to other matters.”

One Republican, Sen. Victoria Spartz of Noblesville, voted against the bill. One Democrat, Sen. David Niezgodski of South Bend, voted for it.

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.

The state ended fiscal year 2019 with a surplus of $410 million, which prompted 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%.

Holcomb’s initial proposal included spending $50 million on the new swine barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, but lawmakers instead opted to focus only on higher education projects. Holcomb’s administration said it supported that decision.

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