The truth about the common school fund: We still need a statewide audit


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More Americans lost jobs than gained them in July, according to data released today by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The good news, relatively speaking, is that the country didn't lose that many jobs. Total job losses came in at 131,000 — a small enough number that the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent. The country actually saw job creation in the private sector last month, gaining 71,000 new jobs.

The bad news, of course, is that things didn't get better.

Yesterday, the Indiana State Budget Agency released data for July's tax revenues, and the picture, while comparatively rosy, was pretty bleak by practical standards. Kind of like today's unemployment numbers. In a year-to-year comparison, this July's revenues were up over last July's (8.8 percent). Good thing.

But we still saw a $15 million shortfall compared to projections in the current two-year budget. That means we can expect more budget crises ahead, as the state scrambles to keep its planned expenditures in line with revenues.

I love tax revenue figures. Even a quick glance offers an subtle and fascinating sociological portrait of the state of our state. And a slightly maddening one. Corporate tax revenues were up a whopping 274.1 percent over last July, compared with individual income taxes which rose 43.7 percent. And while that latter figure means incomes are rising (another good thing), it also means corporations are making serious bank, but the money isn't trickling down proportionally to average employees.

It's true the wealthy pay most of the taxes, so we also don't know that the overall rise in income taxes is coming from increased income across the board. The jobless figures further indicate they probably aren't. In other words, corporate Indiana is doing fine; you, dear reader, might not be.

Little surprise, then, that we've also gotten a little desperate. "Racino" gambling tax revenues are up 6 percent over last July (that's for race tracks that also have casino-style gambling, usually just slots).

Interestingly, riverboat casino revenues are down 18.2 percent. I am not an economist, nor am I a sociologist, but my sense is that riverboat spending is somewhat higher-bracket than at race tracks. Which could mean that people who can better afford to gamble aren't doing it, while people who can't, are. Anyone who's been stuck in line when the Power Ball pot is high knows this interpretation probably isn't a stretch.

The biggest disappointment was sales tax revenues: up only 1.5 percent over last year. It means that while income are up over all, people aren't spending it. They're still worried. Today's unemployment numbers probably won't help. And as sales tax makes up over half of all monthly tax revenues (the biggest source by a mile), it goes a long way toward explaining the $15 million shortfall.

Until the jobs situation gets better (more spenders) and until people who have jobs start spending again (more security) we'll likely have to keep slashing government programs.


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