By Jessica Wray
With one spending plan set to expire and no ready
replacement on its way, the clock on Indiana's budget situation ticks louder
each day the standoff continues that has halted this year's legislative session.
The current two-year budget expires June 30, and it is up to
lawmakers to approve a new one that would take effect July 1.
Though real deadline pressure is still weeks away, the
minority Indiana House Democrats who are set to enter their fourth consecutive
week holed up in an Urbana, Ill. hotel have indicated they are not afraid to
blow that deadline if that's what it takes to win concessions on labor and
If that happens, what comes next is an untested scenario in
which Gov. Mitch Daniels could maintain only emergency powers while the rest of
state government would be forced to a halt.
Sen. Luke Kenley, the Noblesville Republican who chairs the
Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the State Budget Committee, has
studied the situation during previous budget showdowns.
He said the Indiana Constitution grants the governor enough
power to keep the Indiana State Police, the Indiana Department of Correction,
which runs the state's prisons, state health institutions and other health and
safety programs up and running.
"But beyond that, there's not much he can do," Kenley said.
"We'd just have to shut down."
Although he said he is unsure where the revenue to continue
the emergency programs could come from, Kenley said he thinks there are sales
tax receipts and funds that could be tapped to keep the limited number of
"You have some cash balances in the limited number of places
that we could keep open in this instance," he said. "I feel confident that
there would be enough money coming in to cover this situation."
State parks and museums, the Indiana State Fair, the Bureau
of Motor Vehicles and all other state-funded programs and institutions would
close come July 1 if a budget bill has not passed the Indiana General Assembly.
Welfare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits — which
receive federal funding as well as state appropriations — might be
weighed differently if the government came to a halt. Kenley said he did not
know if the programs could be funded based on federal dollars alone, without
matching funds appropriated from the state.
"The key question is that the money has not been
appropriated to do anything, and so the only thing that the governor could
presume to do would be for the health and safety type situation as mentioned in
the constitution," he said.
Unlike Congress, Indiana's government cannot remain in
operation on continuing resolutions, but must pass a budget bill for each
In 1993, Kenley's first year as a legislator, he said a
budget bill won final approval at 11:59 p.m. on June 30. At the time, the
Democrats controlled the House and the Republicans controlled the Senate, and
Evan Bayh was governor.
He said they had to break a deadlock with a bill that
allowed the formation of riverboat casinos, and that was "considered a form of
revenue that would solve the budget problems we were having at the time."
"It was a pretty intense situation," he said. "None of us
ever thought it would go that long. I think everybody was pretty sobered by
that point in time. We just finally reached an agreement. ... We were all so
exhausted that we didn't know whether to cheer or to cry."
Kenley said he is confident the budget bill will pass on
time, and that the government will not have to halt July 1.
He said House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and House
Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) are experienced enough to make
sure that happens.
"We all see the importance of making sure that we fulfill
those obligations, and I just think that everyone of them has a deep enough
sense of commitment that they are going to make sure it gets done, even if
they're not happy with the result."
As for whether it will again take until 11:59 p.m. on June
30, Kenley said he was not sure.
"I didn't think that two weeks ago," he said. "But I'm
beginning to consider it."