INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana has the second largest budget surplus in state history.
It’s a source of pride for the governor but Democrats say he’s putting ideology ahead of Hoosier families and they are anticipated themes for the 2016 election.
Mike Pence is running for re-election on a platform that centers on jobs, the economy, and a stable state budget picture.
When it comes to the budget, Democrats hope to turn his strength into a weakness.
Mike Pence doesn’t hide who he is saying “I’m a conservative,” when asked to explain his approach to the budget.
It’s why he believes the state should hold on to a budget surplus that was $2.14 billion at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Democrats say he’s hoarding money.
“And all they do is fixate on $2 billion,” said House Democratic spokesman John Schorg. “It is their mantra. It is everything they care about and everything else seems to be secondary.”
The governor, meantime, deflects charges that the Department of Child Services is underfunded.
“We don’t play politics with our kids in Indiana,” he said.
And he will still ask most state agencies to return three percent of their budgets.
“We believe our agencies are funded at appropriate levels,” he said.
And while the RFRA controversy has hurt his image, the governor wants you to believe that it didn’t hurt the Indiana economy.
“I believe that this near historic budget surplus,” he said, “is also a reflection of the fact that the last three months of fiscal ’15 represented robust revenues to the state of Indiana, giving evidence of the strength of Indiana’s economy.”
In the governor’s world, a big surplus is also a place to store political capital.
For example, the governor says he may pay off a $250 million debt to the federal unemployment insurance trust in November.
That would reduce the taxes currently paid by Indiana employers.