PHIL WIELAND: Indiana could afford to be less enviable

2012-10-26T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Indiana could afford to be less enviableBy Phil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

Apparently, it doesn't take much for Indiana to be the envy of other states.

During last week's candidate forum at the Valpo chamber of commerce, state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, said the state's fiscal situation is the envy of the nation. That sounded pretty good on top of other comments that evening about the state having a fairly sizable surplus that the candidate were looking forward to spending.

The next day the big news out of Indianapolis was Gov. Mitch Daniels burning the mortgage after paying off $147 million in long-term debt early, partially through refinancing, so several state-owned prisons, parking garages and government buildings would not be repo-ed or sold at tax auction or something. (In Lake County they can't tell the difference between prisons and government buildings.)

More good news, right? I mean, it would be a little embarrassing if someone bought up a used prison and turned it into another fireworks store. Before I could get too excited by all this warm fuzzy news, the rest of the story said the state still owes $1.7 billion to somebody. And there's another $1.8 billion Indiana owes the federal government for loans to pay unemployment benefits since 2008.

Daniels crowed how the state has reduced its debt from $3.6 billion to a mere $1.7 billion since 2005, which just happens to be his first year in office. That makes us the envy of the nation because that's the third lowest state debt per person -- roughly $340 for every man, woman, child and governor in the state.

That might be chump change for Gov. Munchkin and fellow millionaires, but some of us would have a hard time ponying up our portion of that deficit, including my 4-year-old granddaughter, who would rather play her SpongeBob video game than get a job. But that calculation of our individual debt uses Gov. Munchkin's math.

Where I went to school, if you owe $1.7 billion here and $1.8 billion there, that means the debt is really $3.5 billion, or a reduction of only $100 million since 2005. I suppose that's better than increasing it by $100 million, and that apparently is what makes us the envy of the nation. I guess "red" states refers to the color of the budgetary ink.

I realize government finances are totally different from the finances we all face in the real world, where being a few hundred dollars behind on a loan or your credit cards can ruin your credit rating or result in foreclosure. When that happens, nobody considers you the envy of the neighborhood.

I guess you have to owe billions instead of hundreds or thousands to be enviable.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 548-4352.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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