Bill to Spend State Surplus on College Buildings on Gov.’s Desk

(photo supplied / Governor Holcomb)

(INDIANAPOLIS) – Governor Holcomb’s request to spend 300-million dollars from the state surplus has passed the Senate and is headed for his desk.

Six colleges and universities will get money for building projects which were already in the state budget but which otherwise would have required bonds. Holcomb asked legislators for the money to pay cash up front after the state closed the last fiscal year in June with 300-million more dollars than expected. Holcomb says paying cash will save the state five-million dollars a year in interest for 20 years.

It took just 17 days for legislators to approve. The Senate normally doesn’t take up House bills until February, when it’s finished work on its own legislation. But President Pro Tem Rod Bray fast-tracked the bill, assigning it for hearings as soon as it passed the House. Bray says there’s broad support for the bill, and says he wanted to move it through quickly so it couldn’t be used to pry open the two-year budget for other items.

Democrats in both chambers tried unsuccessfully to spend the money on teacher pay or preschool instead. Minority Leader Tim Lanane concedes the savings in interest “isn’t chump change,” but says people should be a higher priority than buildings, and says the lingering teacher pay dilemma is critical and shouldn’t be put off. Bray says he was determined to protect the integrity of the state’s budget process, and reserve anything but one-time expenditures for the writing of the next budget in 2021.

Senators gave final approval on a 38-8 vote, with one senator from each party crossing party lines. South Bend Democrat David Niezgodski joined Republicans in supporting the bill, while Noblesville Republican Victoria Spartz voted against it.

Legislators made a couple of changes to Holcomb’s original list of projects, adding two university projects in place of Holcomb’s original request to pay for construction of a new swine barn at the State Fairgrounds. The administration says it supports the revised bill, which now will fund buildings at I-U, Purdue, Ball State, the University of Southern Indiana, Indiana State, and the Columbus campus of Ivy Tech.