INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's budget picture is a little brighter with news the state ended its last fiscal cycle with more money than expected.
Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday praised budget closeout numbers showing the state with $93 million in an ongoing surplus and $86 million more than expected in cash reserves.
"Our discipline when it comes to the state's financial management allows us to meet our budgetary goals as well as positioning our state for a solid financial future. That is something most states today would envy," Pence said.
The majority of the new money will be used to pay off bonds for the Miami Correctional Facility. Pence says the surplus would be better used to pay down debt left to him when he took office and save taxpayers money in the long term, rather than trigger the state's automatic tax refund and deliver less money immediately.
Indiana ended its 2013 budget year at the end of last month and began its 2014 budget year on July 1. The budget closeout is an annual report of what the state actually spent versus what was budgeted, which is typically presented by the state auditor.
The improved budget picture comes shortly after lawmakers approved a $30 billion, two-year budget earlier this year with a modest income tax cut sought by Pence and more funding for roads and education.
House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said the new number might sound good, but ignores the pain felt by most residents. He noted the surplus was built on deep cuts to services over the last few years.
"Our unemployment rate still remains around 8 percent," he said. "Families still are struggling to keep their heads above water. Our local schools still must grapple with doing more with less."