Budget concerns have increasingly weighed on the state’s fiscal leaders as tax collections have flagged, even as the national economy crawls out of the recession.
The state has come up $90 million short on expected tax collections so far this year, and the expectation itself was lowered in December when budget forecasters discovered the state was on track to collect $300 million less through 2015. The dour news in December in spurred Pence to cut agency budgets and put the state plane up for sale, as part of an effort to maintain the state’s continuing budget surplus.
Those fiscal concerns have weighed on lawmakers looking at new spending requests from Pence. The governor’s call to pay for low-income children to attend preschool won broad bipartisan support in the House earlier this year but ran aground in the Senate.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, suggested Pence may have to rely on money he saved through the December budget cuts — also called reversions — if he wants to pay for a preschool voucher program this year. But he declined to release further details.
“What we’ve got proposed out there is far less expensive for the state and far more reasonable and affordable than the pilot program that was originally proposed,” Long said. “But we’re still not there.”
Lawmakers have until Friday to complete work on their 2014 session, but were planning to leave town Thursday, before they lose their hotel rooms to the many basketball fans flooding Indianapolis for this weekend’s Big 10 conference.
Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks emailed a statement saying the governor was happy with how negotiations are coming.
“Governor Pence is encouraged by his discussions with leadership and looks forward to continuing to work with members of the General Assembly to advance the shared agenda for good jobs and roads, great schools and strong communities during the remainder of this session,” the statement said.