A Guide to Some Useful Links
The internet is growing all the time. There is a lot of information available for people who want to know about Indiana state and local government, or about Indiana's people and economy. Here is a guide to some of the sites I've found useful and/or interesting. This guide is mostly a product of Larry DeBoer's web surfing, and so is in no way "complete." I'll be adding more sites as I find them.
Indiana State Government Sites ...the executive, legislative and judicial branches, on Access Indiana.
Indiana Local Government Sites ...local government organizations, plus the Indiana Digital County Network.
Data about Indiana Local Governments ...more detail about schools and libraries.
U.S. Census Data on Indiana ...the 1990 Census and measures of people, business and government since then.
Other Sources of Indiana Data ...on income, employment, prices, agriculture, and lots more.
News of Indiana ...Indiana newspapers and newsletters.
Economic Data for the United States ...GDP, inflation, unemployment, interest rates, exchange rates, stock values.
Economic Forecasts ...expert opinion on what will happen next.
Other States ...49 other state governments, plus the District of Columbia.
National Organizations for State and Local Governments ...from governors to mayors to tax collectors.
Think Tanks and Research Organizations ...that address state and local issues.
Start with Access Indiana, the state's own website. You'll see links to State, Local, Premium (which you have to pay for), Associations and General. The state section includes much about laws and administrative rules, including the full text of the State Constitution, (see that pesky Article 10, Section 1 about property tax assessment), the full text of the Indiana Code (see Title 6 for most of the laws about taxation, and Title 36 for laws about local government). These tell you what the law is now. For law that may be, you can follow the progress of bills in the General Assembly , when it is in session. In particular, the full text of all the bills and amendments are here.
Access Indiana has a nice indexed listing of state agencies, almost all of which have web sites. Two of the most important from local government's point of view are the State Board of Tax Commissioners and the State Board of Accounts. The Tax Board has the texts of pamphlets about property taxes on line, and the Board of Accounts has put most of the accounting and compliance manuals for local governments on their site. See also their roster of state and local officials, next time you need to know, say, the name and address of the town clerk of Advance, Indiana. The State Budget Agency has a good deal of data about state revenue forecasts, appropriations and the budget.
A huge set of county links can be had from the Indiana Digital County Network, on Access Indiana. Here are descriptions of counties, links to county governments and other county organizations. The Association of Indiana Counties has a website on Access Indiana. It gives the association's platform and descriptions (but not the text) of their publications. The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns has a more extensive website, also on Access Indiana. There's a list of links to Indiana city and town homepages. Last time I looked there were 32 links on the list. One really big site on this list is (as you might expect) Indianapolis. An interesting feature is a city budget simulation, which elects you as virtural Mayor and lets you allocate almost $400 million among various city functions.
So, this website doesn't have enough numbers for you? Maybe not. The best general reference on Indiana state and local government finances is the Indiana Legislative Services Agency's annual Handbook of Taxes, Revenues and Appropriations. If it's schools or libraries you're interested in, you're in luck. The Indiana Department of Education has a website that includes a large amount of data on Indiana school corporations. The DOE provides several graphs about state trends. You can get data for individual school corporations down to the building level. Just type in the name of the school corporation you want to know about. This is useful if you want to know everything about one corporation. If you want to know one thing about all corporations (for example, what was Kindergarten enrollment in all 294 corporations in 1999), try the Indiana education data section. Data for some variables are available all the way back to the mid-1970s. Data on library districts are available from the Indiana State Library. If you need information on library revenues and expenditures, holdings of books and other materials, employment or circulation, try Statistics about Indiana libraries. Data are available for years starting in 1994.
The U.S. Bureau of the Census has a tremendous website. The days of pulling those big, dusty books off the shelves are numbered. You can get Indiana data from the 1990 Census on the Census Lookup page. Click the "State--County" button and "Indiana" to see data by county. Click the "State--Place" button and "Indiana" to see data for cities and towns. Another way to get at county data is through the State Profile. You'll see a map of the counties--click on the county you want to know about. The 1990 Census data is getting a little stale, but some data is available for more recent years. The Census has done population estimates through 1996 for counties, cities, towns, and townships. It's a big table. Each year the Census collects economic information in County Business Patterns. These data are available on their website for 1988 through 1996, but it's pretty hard to use. Try instead Geostat at the University of Virginia. Select "County Level Data" and follow directions. They've got the data since 1977. The Census also collects information on government taxes and spending, in case you want to compare Indiana to the other states. Data on government employment and pensions are available too, back to the early 1990s.
To start, try STATS Indiana, run by the Indiana Business Research Center out of IUPUI. They've got a number of tables on population, the economy, the workforce, and county profiles. The tables are well explained and most are already in spreadsheet format. They've organized the 1995 and 1996 County Business Patterns data in a more usable way than has the Census. Acres of Indiana agricultural data are available from the Indiana Agricultural Statistics Service at Purdue. Lots of county ag data are included. Ball State's Bureau of Business Research has data on Indiana economic indicators, such as employment, building permits and retail sales. There's a clickable map for metropolitan areas and the state as a whole. The University of Virginia Geostat site has the 1988 and 1994 City and County Data Books on-line. Lots of local data for every state including ours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the Federal organization that puts out the unemployment and inflation statistics. They provide some regional data. At best, though, this is statewide data for Indiana; some of it is for the whole Great Lakes region. The Bureau of Economic Analysis is the Federal organization that does the Gross Domestic Product estimates. They also have some regional data. There is a nice Statistics for Indiana page, showing tables for Indiana gross state product, state and county income, and projections of state employment and income by industry. Once again, the University of Virginia Geostat site has data from the BEA's Regional Economic Information System (REIS), which has income and employment data by county for every state since 1969. The southern half of Indiana is in the St. Louis Federal Reserve district. This is lucky because the St. Louis Fed has a data base that includes some data on the states in its district. They show monthly Indiana employment data and some banking data. The Urban Institute provides a state by state database in their New Federalism project. This database is especially strong on social service and health care topics.
Indiana is in the United States. What happens to the U.S. economy also happens to Indiana's. How to know what's happening? You can try the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for their monthly news releases on unemployment and inflation , and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis for BEA news releases on Gross Domestic Product and other data. There are a few sites that pull lots of data together so you don't have to. Try the Economic Statistics Briefing Room at the White House, the BLS's Economy at a Glance table, or the BEA's Overview of the Economy table. There's also the Federal Reserve Board's daily update on interest rates and weekly update on foreign currency exchange rates. Daily stock market updates from around the world are available for free from Yahoo.
Need to predict next year's inflation rate? The internet can help. There is no "official" forecast, but sometimes it's nice to have a prediction of inflation or interest rates with the name of a big, impressive Federal agency on it. If that's what you need, try the Congressional Budget Office's forecasts, which are for the next ten years. If you want a second opinion for the shorter term future, try the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, which puts out a forecast each quarter. You also can check the Economics Illustrated Monthly Survey of Wall Street Economists. When these guys are wrong, it costs them real money. And, our own Purdue Department of Agricultural Economics provides forecasts on the general economy and many sectors of the agricultural economy.
Indiana is far from alone on the web. Here are some "links to the links": sites that have lists of links to other state government websites. I.U.'s Virtual Law Library has a really big list of State Government Links--I mean really big, all the way from Alabama Department of Archives and History to the Wyoming Attorney General. If you want more (or a different list of the same sites), the Library of Congress has another list of State and Local government websites. The Financenet project has links to state and local budget sites.
There's a bunch of national organizations for state and local governments. Here's a list of some of the more prominent: the International City/County Management Association, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Governors Association, the Federation of Tax Administrators, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Most of these sites have their own links sections, so you can surf the government cyberwaves.
Some think tanks put the texts of their research on the web. Some just tease you with descriptions, hoping you'll buy. In Indianapolis you'll find IUPUI's Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. The foremost government research organization in Indianapolis is the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a Washington think tank that's been doing research on Indiana's state budget. Some other think tanks that deal with state and local issues are the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Center for Policy Research at Syracuse University's Maxwell School, and the Urban Institute in Washington.
St. Joseph County Library
State Government--Library of Congress