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4/7/2017 7:15:00 PM
Strong state revenue growth may give Hoosier lawmakers more money to spend

Dan Carden, Times of Northwest Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier lawmakers soon could find they have some extra money to spend in the two-year state budget, whose final details are being negotiated by a House-Senate conference committee.

Revenue data released Friday by the State Budget Agency shows Indiana tax collections, through nine months of the 2017 budget year, grew more than anticipated by the state revenue forecast released in December.

The forecast predicted year-over-year growth of just 1.5 percent.

In fact, between July 2016 and March, state revenue increased $317.3 million, or 3.1 percent, compared to the prior year.

While that still is less than the 3.5 percent anticipated annual growth used by lawmakers in 2015 to craft the current state spending plan, the improved revenue total has shrunk Indiana's potential 2017 overspending to just 1 percent, or $102 million.

As a result, lawmakers may be able to allocate next year some $300 million they've been holding back to fully cover this year's appropriations.

In addition, the revised revenue forecast due to be issued Wednesday now is likely to boost future revenue growth above the December predictions of 2.9 percent for 2018 and 3.9 percent for 2019 — possibly making several hundred million more dollars available for lawmakers to spend.

That could enable the Republican-controlled House to meet its goal of dedicating all state sales tax revenue from gasoline purchases to road funding, without requiring a $1 per pack cigarette tax hike to replace those funds in the state's main spending account.

However, the Senate's budget chief, state Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, tends to be extremely skeptical when presented with any rosy revenue forecast.

He's likely to urge lawmakers to limit spending to the contents of the budget plan approved Thursday in the Senate version of House Bill 1001, in case tax collections fall short of predictions due to an economic slowdown or any other unanticipated cause.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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