NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: State amendment for balanced budget worth a “yes” vote

Have you ever gone to the polls on Election Day and found something on the ballot you didn’t expect? And you had no idea how you should vote?

This year’s Indiana ballot in the Nov. 6 election will include Public Question No. 1:

Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?

We recommend you vote “yes.”

The question is whether the Indiana Constitution should include a requirement that the General Assembly enact a balanced budget that annually spends less money than the state collects in taxes and other revenue. The proposed constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 7, was approved 94-4 by the House last year after passing the Senate, 43-4.

The amendment was first proposed by Vice President Mike Pence as Indiana governor in his 2015 State of the State address.

Rep. Todd Huston, R-Fishers, who sponsored the resolution in the Indiana House, told The Associated Press the amendment should be approved because it “limits the amount of gimmicks that can be played, so that what we’re bringing in and what we’re spending is truly balanced. We’ve held to that standard in recent years.”

Yes, the Indiana Constitution already largely bans the state from incurring debt, except in times of war, and the leaders of both political parties in the Statehouse have enacted balanced budgets through the years in accordance with the Constitution’s general prohibition on most debt. But, as Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, points out, there is no explicit requirement for Indiana to adopt a balanced budget.

The Indiana Family Institute’s analysis of the proposal points out that “there is an exception within our State Constitution allowing debts to ‘meet casual deficits’ [that] has been interpreted by the courts to mean that virtually any debt the Indiana General Assembly views as a ‘casual deficit’ will be viewed by the judiciary as a ‘casual deficit’ and therefore not at odds with the Indiana Constitution. This interpretation allows the Indiana General Assembly to skirt the spirit of the Indiana Constitution and run up large deficits if it so chooses.”

Responsible Indiana citizens live within their means. We have to make hard choices when our expenses threaten to overtake our income. And we should expect no less from our government.

Be prepared to make your votes count in the Nov. 6 election. Know what’s on the ballot ahead of time and how you want to vote. And we think the balanced budget constitutional change is worthy of a “yes” vote.