INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Higher-education leaders in Indiana got an early taste
Thursday of what will likely be a tough predicament for anyone relying on
state aid when lawmakers return in January to write the budget.
Indiana University President Michael McRobbie told members of the State
Budget Committee that his institution has grown into a lean operation over
the last four years. Vincennes University President Dick Helton asked the
panel for $8 million to run a vocational training program but was met with
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, a Noblesville Republican who
will lead the budget drafting next year, told the group that state tax
collections are unlikely to improve much next year and the strain on the
budget could be great.
“There’s sort of an element, or a sense that people have waited long enough
and there are some things that they think it’s time we have to do this or
it’s time we have to do that,” Kenley said. “There is going to be an
enormous amount of competition for whatever funds are out there.”
Gov.-elect Mike Pence and the General Assembly will head into the 2013
session with roughly $2 billion in cash reserves collected through budget
cuts made by outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels, improved tax collections and
federal stimulus aid that carried the state through the recession.
Pence campaigned on a proposal to cut the state’s personal income tax by 10
percent and maintain the state’s cash reserves at an amount equal to 12.5
percent of state spending. But House leaders have urged caution on approving
new tax cuts, noting that the Legislature already has cut the corporate
income tax and is phasing out the inheritance tax.
Kenley noted that tax collections could grow by 1.5 percent in the coming
budget cycle, giving lawmakers little to work with in terms of new spending
or restored funding.
“So it’s going to be a tough session in that regard,” he said. “We’ve kind
of all approached this with a partnership approach over the last four to
five years. I think we need to stick with it, I don’t think we’re out of the
The pinch for Indiana universities has been pronounced with a request from
the Commission for Higher Education and lawmakers that they not shift the
burden to students through increased tuition costs.
McRobbie told the panel Thursday that his university, like every other one,
has done less with more.
“IU is both educating more students and producing more degrees with reduced
staffing and with fewer state funds,” he said. “These efficiencies and
productivity gains have not been easy, as you’re well aware. But I often
remind my colleagues that no one has had it easy in this state — and most
other states, too — during the recent period of economic difficulty.”
Helton, the Vincennes president, asked the panel for $8 million to pay for
equipment at a vocational training center which would help high school
students graduate with associate’s degrees, positioning them better to find
work out of school.
“We’re going to enhance an opportunity because these students will have
better opportunities to get a degree,” he said.
Kenley grilled him on the details of how the state money would be spent
before pointing out programs will need strong justifications to win money
from the state.
“It’s not like you’re going to be opening some new ice cream stand on the
corner and business will just show up,” Kenley said. “There’s got to be some
reason for why we’re going to do this.”