Indiana finished its most recent fiscal year with more money in reserve than it’s ever had.
State leaders Thursday were pleasantly surprised by revenue growth over the last year, $266 million more in collections than expected. It's the strongest growth rate since 2012, which Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston calls “comforting” after state officials and lawmakers wrung their hands about money when writing the new state budget earlier this year.
That growth puts the state’s budget reserves at nearly $2.3 billion. And Gov. Eric Holcomb wants to spend some of it: he’s asking the legislature to approve $300 million from reserves for several projects already in the planning stages.
Johnston says paying for projects now, in cash, saves money in the long run.
“To avoid 20, 25 years of interest costs for borrowing – and the savings are estimated to be over $100 million,” Johnston says.
The projects include a new swine barn at the State Fairgrounds, several university projects, and the completion of U.S. Highway 31.
House GOP leaders are fully behind the plan. In a statement, Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) says the governor’s “prudent” proposal will save money in the long term.
But House Democrats said Republicans value, in their words, “hoarding money over improving human infrastructure.”
In a statement, Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) said reserve dollars should be spent on giving teachers a 5 percent pay raise, funding statewide pre-K, and ensuring health care coverage for low-income Hoosiers.