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A few weeks ago I wrote on these pages that the City-County Council Democrats should just sign off the Mayor's introduced budget and give him full ownership of it. Instead of listening to me, they decided to do their own thing, which included talking $15 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) from the Capital Improvement Board. The end result was a mayoral veto.
The Mayor officially announced this past Friday that he was vetoing a portion of the Democrats' budget. The two biggest vetoes were the vetoing of a transfer of $32 million from the county treasurer to the county general fund. This means that funding to the county offices (Prosecutor, Auditor, Surveyor, Clerk, Sheriff, Courts, etc) will have to reduce their budgets by about 14 percent starting in January.
The second major veto was of what are known as Character 3 funds in the Council Democrats' budget, those are used for contracts and also $100,000 for redistricting. The Mayor did tell the Council that he would agree to restore the funding, provided the Democrats take out the money for redistricting.
Democrats have balked at the idea, accusing the mayor of going after public safety. They also say the mayor's move is illegal. They cite state law which says the mayor cannot veto the appropriation of an office that is created by the Indiana Constitution. The mayor's office says it is not vetoing any budget, but merely exercising another provision of state law, which allows the mayor to veto any appropriation of money or levy of a tax. And, the mayor's people add, they are merely talking about the direction of where money will be sent.
This is a very interesting game of budget chicken. Democrats don't have the votes to override a mayoral veto, they need 20. There are 16 Democrats on the Council and they would need four Republican votes. Council Minority Leader Mike McQuillan tells me his caucus won't vote to override the veto. And if someone decides to go to court, the case would have to be taken out of Marion County, since the judges are funded from the county and they would have to overhear the case.
Another interesting sidebar to all this is that there is a two-month window that the mayor and council have to negotiate. Under state law, the council and mayor cannot tinker with the budget between Nov. 1 and Jan. 1. However, they can use the window to negotiate a more effective deal. Since the Democrats can't override a veto and Mayor Ballard tells me he is perfectly happy with the budget as it is now, it will behoove Council Democrats to start moving toward the Mayor's position. Of course, had they just listened to me in the first place then none of this would have ever have happened. Oh well, there's always next budget year.