October 29, 2018

Legal Expert Says Balanced Budget Amendment Would Have Little Practical Impact

Original story from   IPBS-RJC

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Indiana voters this year are asked to decide whether to amend Indiana’s constitution with language that requires the legislature to pass balanced budgets.  - Steve Burns/WTIU

Indiana voters this year are asked to decide whether to amend Indiana’s constitution with language that requires the legislature to pass balanced budgets.

Steve Burns/WTIU

Indiana voters this year are asked to decide whether to amend Indiana’s constitution with language that requires the legislature to pass balanced budgets. 

But some experts say pass or fail, the proposed amendment will have little practical impact.

The ballot question asks if the constitution should require lawmakers pass a balanced budget, unless at least two-thirds of both chambers suspend that requirement.

Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan argues the state constitution, in effect, already has such a requirement. It currently bars the legislature from creating debt except to meet “casual deficits.”

“We’ve had a balanced budget in Indiana since 1891," Sullivan says. "That is to say, the current constitution has worked quite well.”

Sullivan, who's also a former state budget director, says the proposed language adds unnecessary complexity.

Some online posts claim the amendment would allow lawmakers to raid state pensions to cover budget shortfalls. But they can already do that – nothing in current law stops lawmakers from taking measures to prevent a shortfall. In fact, the amendment potentially makes it harder to raid pensions by requiring two-thirds votes in both houses to do so.

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