INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosier voters are likely to be asked next year whether the Indiana Constitution should include a balanced budget mandate.
On Tuesday, the Republican-controlled Indiana Senate voted 43-4 for Senate Joint Resolution 7, a proposed constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers spend no more in a two-year budget period than is expected to come in through tax collections.
State officials of both political parties have long followed that practice in accordance with the constitution's general prohibition on most types of state debt.
But state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, said the state debt ban mostly is a fiction and Hoosiers deserve the security of a true balanced budget requirement.
"Enshrining this type of fiscal discipline into our constitution is exactly the kind of good governance that will not only protect and promote what we're doing right now, but will prevent us from falling into the same fiscal death spiral as places like our unfortunate neighbors to the west (Illinois)," Hershman said.
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, was among the four senators voting against the amendment.
She suggested Hershman's proposal is imprecisely worded and could effectively prevent the state from ever spending its $2 billion reserve fund, or require billions of dollars be spent immediately to prop up state pension accounts if a stock market dip reduces their funding levels.
"I do not believe that we need this as a constitutional amendment," Tallian said.
The proposed amendment now goes to the Republican-controlled House, which overwhelmingly approved identical language in 2015.
If representatives again endorse the amendment, Hoosier voters will be asked to ratify or reject it at the 2018 general election.