Budget shapes up for officials: Lawmakers face limited resources, casino competition



INDIANAPOLIS

“The fiscal fog is thick” has become a favorite line for Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma heading into the next session of the General Assembly, and it’s with good reason.

State tax collections — the lifeblood of the budget and everything from road-paving to classroom sizes — could remain stagnant as the state continues to crawl out of the recession.

Pent-up demands from groups and agencies cut during the past four years are already meeting with intense skepticism from lead budget-writers. And money from Indiana’s expansive gambling industry, the third-largest source of money for the state, is dropping amid competition from neighboring states, which have legalized gambling as a means to patch their own budget holes.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long wryly noted this past week that the best tax dollars are another state’s tax dollars, pointing out that Indiana had feasted on gambling profits from residents of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky for two decades now. But that feast is almost at an end.

Indiana’s university presidents heard the bad news from Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, who said that tax collections could grow by a paltry 1.5 percent during the next year, leaving lawmakers with little wiggle room when they write the next biennial budget.

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