(INDIANAPOLIS) - Gov. Mitch Daniels shared good news for Hoosier taxpayers Tuesday.
Because of a larger-than-expected state surplus, the first automatic taxpayer refund next spring will be higher than the governor originally estimated. Daniels said the numbers for the fiscal year that ended Saturday aren't final yet, but they're close enough that he wanted to share the news.
"We know the rough outlines, and I thought it was important to share those promptly," he said.
Daniels said single filers will get at least $100, and joint filers will receive at least $200. The exact amount of the refund won't be determined until fall.
"In the fiscal year just closed, Indiana ran a surplus of more than a half-billion dollars in revenue versus spending," Daniels said. "This will bring our total reserves to more than $2 billion. This is more than we were forecasting earlier this spring."
Daniels previously projected that individual filers would get $70 and that joint filers would get $140.
To qualify, a person will have to file state income tax returns in both 2012 and 2013 and have paid at least some income tax in those years.
Taxpayers will automatically get the refund when filing their 2012 tax forms next spring. Part of the surplus, at least $300 million, will be diverted to shoring up the state's pension funds.
Daniels said the state is doing so well that there should be plenty of money next year for more refunds and perhaps some additional spending or investing.
"Come next January, a new governor, a new General Assembly, will have a very wide range of choices here in Indiana, one that will not be available in very many states anywhere in the country," he said.
Daniels said he won't presume to recommend to his successor what to do with that money.
"It is not for me to suggest, I make no suggestion, what they do with this strong financial picture that they will inherit," he said. "The point is they'll have flexibility to invest, spend, cut taxes, some mix of all of those."
All the extra money isn't going to refunds. Part will be used to shore up the state's pension funds.
Democrats weren't happy with the news. House Minority Leader Pat Bauer questioned whether the surplus is built on extra money Hoosiers are paying for things like school fees.
"Is that $100 per year really a bargain, or are you being nickel-and-dimed to death?" Bauer asked.
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