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Pence trumps budget surplus on the backs of Indiana's public school students


The state announced its end of the fiscal year report boasting of a more than $2 billion surplus in cash reserves.


The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette explained the details behind the source of the surplus:


In fact, fiscal year 2014 revenues were lower than the previous year, possibly due to state corporate and inheritance tax cuts lawmakers implemented.


Pence ordered budget cuts in December, including a loss of $34 million to state colleges and universities. Other agencies also returned millions, including $27 million from the Family and Social Services Administration and $12 million from the Indiana Department of Correction.


Two very important answers we didn’t hear from Governor Pence yesterday are:  What is his plan for the surplus? How much extra money does the state really need to squirrel away without helping Hoosiers?


These answers are important at a time when local public school budgets are struggling.


As we wrote a few months ago, at what cost are these large surpluses?


Since approving property tax caps in 2010, local governments and public schools have struggledThe caps kept $245 million from schools just last year.


This doesn’t include the potentially negative effects of the newest tax cut passed this session. The degree of the effects of the newest cuts remain unclear. A previous, broader version of the tax cut would have eliminated $1billion from already struggling local governments and public schools.


These funding cuts for schools, combined with the $300 million cut from schools beginning in 2009 (and never really restored) have had a dramatic negative impact on public school budgets from around the state. This has led to various ballot referendums in the past 4 years.


Now others are questioning this amassing of such a large surplus, including political reporter Brian Howey:


Indiana has a $2 billion surplus while another $4 million of the Department of Child Services is reverted back to the general fund and county jails are filling up with mentally ill people the state has refused to deal with. This is not only an embarrassment of priorities, but a 2016 campaign issue just waiting for someone to exploit.


We still believe that state leaders have an opportunity to stop the pain inflicted on public schools in next session’s budget writing. It is time for our legislature to refocus its attention back on one of our state’s most important assets – Indiana’s public schools.