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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, October 18, 2018 1:00 am

No on Question #1

“Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a supermajority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?”

– Public Question #1

No well-funded political action committee is promoting or attacking a proposed amendment to the Indiana Constitution, so you might be surprised to find it on your general election ballot. But altering the state's guiding principles is serious business, and if you read the proposed amendment closely, you should be surprised to see it would add an odd escape clause to a constitutional requirement.

Which is why a no vote is the best course on Public Question #1. The measure comes before voters as the final step required after it was approved in two separately elected sessions of the legislature. Then-Gov. Mike Pence called for the amendment in 2015, but even Republican lawmakers were less than enthusiastic. Then-Senate President Pro Tem David Long said the legislature would have to make sure it could respond to economic downturns.

“It will be minimalistic, whatever we end up with,” the Fort Wayne Republican said at the time. “Try to make sure you don't hamstring yourself in the future, but that you do require fiscal discipline for future generations.”

The result is the bizarre provision to opt out of the balanced-budget requirement with a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, which appears to weaken the constitutional prohibition Indiana already has on incurring debt. Lawmakers approved the existing measure in 1851 to protect Indiana from a financial crisis like the one resulting from the canal and road-building act of 1836.

The General Assembly has acted responsibly in approving balanced budgets for 167 years, so Pence's amendment amounts to troublesome and unnecessary tinkering with our state constitution. Vote no.