(STATEHOUSE) - Like nearly all statehouse budget debates, reaction to news of a $1.2-billion-dollar surplus has quickly zeroed in on schools.
Schools absorbed $326-million dollars in cuts to already-tight budgets in the last fiscal year, as the state struggled to make sure it had enough money to pay its bills.
A combination of spending cuts and revived tax collections produced a surplus a billion dollars higher than expected, and $350-million higher than the state had a year ago.
House Minority Leader Patrick Bauer argues next year's legislature has a constitutional responsibility to pass some of that windfall along to schools.
State Auditor Tim Berry responds the recovery is still too fragile to be spending those reserves.
And he notes state agencies absorbed twice as much in cuts, even though schools represent 60% more of the budget.
Governor Daniels announced the cuts at the end of 2009.
At that point, Berry says, the state was still running far behind budget projections, and appeared to have little choice.
The state ended up $1.3-billion dollars short of expected tax collections for the two-year budget.
Three-quarters of the shortfall came in the first year.
Schools are scheduled for a half-percent budget increase this year, followed by a full percent next year.
Have a question or comment about a news story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org