Hoosiers will have a chance in 2018 to decide if the Indiana Constitution should be amended to require a balanced budget. If passed, this amendment will mean that the Indiana General Assembly will have to collect more in revenues than it spends every year. The Editorial Board is in favor of this amendment because it will ensure that the fiscal responsibility Indiana embraces will continue long into the future.
The amendment is named Senate Joint Resolution 7. It has already been passed by the House and the Senate this year. As it is a constitutional amendment, it will now be voted on by the general public in 2018.
Indiana is a state known for its fiscal responsibility. A January 2014 report by the nonprofit State Budget Solutions found that Indiana had a state debt per capita of $7,094. Though this may sound like a large sum of money, it’s actually the third lowest in the nation.
Additionally, Indiana’s state credit rating has been better than other Great Lakes region states from 2008-2014. This means that lenders are more faithful in Indiana’s ability to pay back loans.
Enacting a constitutional amendment to ensure a balanced budget will keep these fiscally responsible practices in place long after current politicians leave office. Should less frugal representatives find their way into the Indiana House, Senate or governorship, they won’t be able to create irresponsible budgets that harm taxpayers. Forty-three states stipulate in their constitutions that the Governor must propose a balanced budget initially, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the government must run at a surplus each year. Indiana’s constitutional amendment will force the surplus.
Though fiscal responsibility and budget surpluses sound great, the Editorial Board did have a few concerns with such an unforgiving devotion to staying in the black. We wondered what would happen if the government needed to act during an environmental disaster or wartime efforts. Staying devoted to a strictly balanced budget could potentially leave Hoosiers without aid when they need it should something unexpected befall the state.
The amendment could be overturned in such times of hardship, but it’s not easy to do so. Two-thirds of both the House and the Senate would have to decide to waive it.
It’s safe to say something big would have to happen for this amendment to be overturned. Despite times when extensive spending might be helpful, the Editorial Board believes that this bill is a positive. It will force our government to keep itself in check – even when our current politicians move on from their positions.
When the balanced budget amendment makes its way to the ballot next year, Hoosiers should check “yes.”