An Overview of the Indiana State Budget

Updated January 2011


Revenues, Expenditures and Balances
Where Does It Come From, Where Does It Go?

Indiana's state government makes a lot of information available about its state budget, but it's in a form that many people find hard to understand.  There are revenue projections from the State Budget Agency, budget bills considered by the General Assembly, fiscal notes from the Legislative Services Agency, and lists of appropriations and fund balances from the Budget Agency.  State budget accounting is necessarily complicated.  Still, there ought to be a way to combine the revenue, appropriation and fund balance information so everyone can understand.

The state's budget, after all, is not so different from a family's checking or savings account statement.  The state starts the year with balances in its checking and savings accounts--the general fund and rainy day fund balances.  During the year money comes in from various sources, mostly from taxes.  During the year money goes out, in payments authorized by the budget which the General Assembly has passed.  At the end of the year balances are left in checking and savings.  If the state has spent more than it has taken in during the year, balances are lower than at the year's start.  If the state has taken in more than it has spent, balances are higher.  And, just as your bank objects when you bounce a check, so the Indiana Constitution requires that the state keep a positive balance in its checking account.


Links to More Information

To Find: Go To:
A topics page describing Indiana's fund balances in more detail This website:  Indiana's Fund Balances
A topics page discussing the outlook for Indiana's state budget This website: Indiana's Budget Outlook
A topics page discussing Indiana revenue forecasts This website: Indiana's Revenue Forecasts
A handout about the Indiana state budget This website:  State Budget Handout (PDF file)
A description of how the numbers in the state's budget documents are summarized on a single page. This website: State Budget Summary documentation


Revenues, Expenditures and Balances
This table shows revenues, appropriations and balances for the Indiana's general fund, rainy day fund, tuition reserve fund and Medicaid reserve fund.  This is not all of state government, by any means.  There are many "dedicated funds" as well.  Almost all highway maintenance and construction expenditures are made from such dedicated funds, for example.  But the general fund is the focus of the General Assembly's budget debate every two years, and the balances in these funds measure the health of the state's finances.

Start of year balances show the money in the state's general fund, rainy day fund, tuition reserve fund and Medicaid reserve fund accounts at the start of each fiscal year (on July 1). 

Revenues show how much was collected from four major tax sources. These are the big two, sales and individual income taxes, plus corporate income taxes and gaming taxes. Gaming taxes are the riverboat casino wagering and admissions taxes, plus revenues from the race track casinos (the "racinos"). Indiana has collected taxes from riverboats since their inception in the mid-1990s, but only in 2003 did these taxes become general fund revenues. All other includes cigarette and tobacco taxes, alcoholic beverage taxes, the insurance tax, inheritance tax, interest earned on fund balances, and some other smaller sources.  In fiscal year 2010 (July 2009 to June 2010) the state received $12.3 billion from all these revenue sources. The 2008 property tax reform increased the sales tax from 6% to 7% as of April 1, 2008, which is why the sales tax number jumps in 2009, even during a deep recession. The revenue figures for 2011 are based on the state's revenue forecast from December 2010.

Appropriations is the spending authorized by the biennial budget passed by the the General Assembly. Budgets are written in odd-numbered years, during "long sessions" of the General Assembly.  The budgets for the current biennium, fiscal years 2010-2011, were written during the long session in Spring 2009, and finished up during the special session in June. The session starting in January 2011 will write the budgets for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

Total appropriations in fiscal 2010 were about $14.4 billion. The property tax reform bill in 2008 made big changes in appropriations. In calendar year 2009, appropriations for K-12 education and Health and Social Services increased as the state took over the school general fund and county welfare funds, to reduce property tax levies. Property tax relief is falling, since the old property tax replacement and homestead credit payments to local governments are being diverted to pay for these levy takeovers. Calendar year 2009 changes are spread between fiscal year 2009 and fiscal year 2010. That's why K-12 education and health and social services appropriations rise so much in 2009 and 2010. The added appropriations from the state were matched dollar for dollar by reductions in property taxes.

The current year surplus/deficit simply subtracts expenditures from revenues.  In each year from 2000 to 2005 there were current year deficits, because expenditures exceeded revenues. The shortfall was especially large during and after the 2001 recession, in fiscal years 2001, 2002 and 2003. The state had current year surpluses in 2006, 2007 and 2008. When state officials say the budget is balanced, they may be referring to a calculation like this one, but there are other ways to measure the budget balance, too. The recession of 2007-09 caused more big deficits in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, and an expected deficit in fiscal 2011. These budgets were expected to be balanced when they were passed, but revenues fell short of forecasts.

ARRA is the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act--the Federal stimulus bill passed in February 2009, and augmented in the summer of 2010. It provided about $2.2 billion for Indiana's budget in fiscal years 2009-11. Part of this money reduces the state's share of total Medicaid spending, and another part is for fiscal stabilization, directed at K-12 education.

The next three lines of the table show adjustments to revenues and appropriations.  Transfers from (to) Other Funds are just that, movement of money from the general fund to other funds (negative numbers in parentheses), or movement of money from other funds to the general fund (positive numbers).  All the transfers since 2000 have been positive, meaning revenue was shifted from other funds to the general fund. Fund transfers tend to be large after recessions, as they were in 2001 through 2003, and in 2010. In effect, state officials decide that supporting general fund appropriations is more important than using the money for non-general fund purposes.

Reversions occur when state agencies spend less than their appropriations.  This happens every year to some degree, for example when bills don't come due until the next fiscal year, when tasks are delayed from one fiscal year to the next, when employees resign or state jobs remain open unexpectedly, or when tasks can be accomplished for less than the amount originally expected.  Reversions are also a method that the governor can use to reduce spending during revenue shortfalls, by requiring some state agencies to spend less than the budget authorizes. These are the Governor's budget cuts. That's why reversions were especially large in 2009 and 2010, and why they will be large in 2011.

Payment delays take advantage of the fact that the state is on a July-June fiscal year, while local governments are on a calendar year fiscal year.  For example, the state owes school corporations 12 monthly aid payments during a year.  Ordinarily these payments will be made once each month during the calendar year, six in one state fiscal year (January through June), and six in the next state fiscal year (July through December).  If payments are delayed, though, the June money may be paid in July.  The state ultimately pays the same amount, but there are only five payments in the first six months, and thus only eleven payments in the state fiscal year.  The state has saved one payment, and thus reduced its fiscal year appropriations.  This "fiscal gimmick" was used in the recessions of the early 1990s and early 2000s to hold appropriations down. Both payment delays were later reversed, once revenues recovered. From 2006 to 2009 payments were accelerated, for example by making 13 monthly payments in a fiscal year. The reversals are shown as negative numbers in the payment delays line.

End of year balances are what's left at the end of the fiscal year (on June 30), after revenues are added, expenditures are subtracted, Federal aid is added, and fund transfers, reversions and payment delays are accounted for. There are four fund balances shown here, the general fund, tuition reserve fund (used for paying state aid to schools), Medicaid reserve fund, and the rainy day fund (the state's savings account).  The state Constitution effectively requires that this balance be positive on June 30 (or, at least, that the state not borrow to cover a short-term deficit). The state can spend more than it takes in during the year, as long as there are enough balances and adjustments to cover the excess. This is why the term "balanced budget" is a bit murky for the state government. June 30 balances have never been negative. But sometimes this is achieved by running down balances, fund transfers or payment delays, even when current year spending exceeds current year revenues.

Total balances as a percent of revenue simply divide end of year balances by total revenue.  This is a rough measure of the state's fiscal health.  One use of balances is for cash flow. Revenues come in on one schedule, and bills are paid on another. A balance is needed in state's checking account for those months when revenues are low and bills are high. A rule of thumb says that a state needs a minimum of 5% of revenues in balances to cover cash flow, and Indiana generally adheres to this rule.

Another use of balances is to insure against unexpected shortfalls of revenue.  The State Budget Agency marks a "prudent balance range" at 10% to 12% of revenues to guard against shortfalls. Of course, if a recession has a big effect on revenues--as in 2001-2002 and 2008-10--even much bigger balances won't protect the state from budget cuts and (potentially) tax hikes.

Payment delay liability is the amount of extra spending required to reverse the payment delay fiscal gimmick. As of 2005, the state would have had to make a 13th payment to local governments of more than $700 million in order to return payments to their normal schedule. The state began moving payments forward in 2006. The state fully reversed the payment delays by the end of the 2009 biennium. In some Budget Agency documents, this liability is subtracted from total balances. The result shows a negative number for 2004. For Constitutional purposes, though, end-of-year balances without the payment delay liability are the appropriate measure.

Appropriations less reversions. Budget cuts--reversions--were very large in 2010 and 2011, because of the sharp decrease in state revenues. For these years changes in appropriations are not a very good measure of spending changes. Appropriations less reversions show how actual state spending has changed since 2000. In 2010, and it is expected, in 2011, actual spending declined from previous years.

Links to More Information

To Find: Go To:
Information about the state budget, revenues and fund balances from the State Budget Agency State Budget Agency website
Information about state taxes, other revenue sources, fund balances and the state budget from the Legislative Services Agency's Handbook of Taxes, Revenues and Appropriations General Assembly website, Legislative Services Agency publications


Where Does It Come From, Where Does It Go?
Anticipated revenue for the fiscal 2011 general fund (and closely related funds) comes from two big taxes, and many smaller sources.  The big taxes are the general sales tax and the individual income tax.  The sales tax is collected at 7% of taxable sales.  The individual income tax is a flat 3.4% of taxable income.  Together, these two taxes raise more than 80% of general fund revenue, $10.5 billion of the $13.0 billion expected to be collected in 2011 (as of the December 2010 forecast).


Tax reforms in 2002 and 2008 have changed the slices of the pie substantially.  The sales tax slice is bigger, because the sales tax rate increased in 2002 to 6%, and in 2008 to 7%.  Cigarette tax revenue tripled with big increases in its tax rate.  The cigarette tax is included in the All Other slice. The Gaming tax slice appeared for the first time in 2003, since the 2002 reform first put riverboat gaming tax revenue into general revenues.  The 2002 tax restructuring increased the tax rates and expanded the scope of gaming.  The corporate income tax slice got smaller, with the elimination in 2002 of the gross corporate income tax for most corporations.

The sales tax rate has increased from 5% to 7% over the past decade, but the individual income tax rate remained at 3.4%. As recently as 2002 the income and sales taxes raised about the same amount of revenue, but Indiana has moved its state revenue collections decidedly towards the sales tax in recent years. That means the income tax slice has gotten smaller.

Appropriations are the legal authorizations for state spending, included in the budget bill that the General Assembly passes every other year. More than half of appropriations are for K-12 education.  With higher education, total education is 65% of the general fund, nearly two-thirds. Add Medicaid, and you've got 78% of total appropriations, more than three-quarters of the general fund.

As a result of the 2008 tax reform, the state took on full responsibility for the school general fund, the county welfare funds, and several smaller funds, that were formerly funded with property taxes. These new expenditures will be partially funded by the added sales tax revenue from the rate increase in 2008, and partially by diverting property tax relief expenditures to this new use. At one time state payments for property tax relief were the second largest item in the budget, but these appropriations have virtually disappeared as of 2011. The money still provides property tax relief, because these new additions to the state budget used to be paid for with local property taxes.

The budget pie points out the difficulty the legislature faces when revenues fall short.  Education and Medicaid are 78% of the budget. Medicaid is an entitlement program.  Its spending is determined by the rules of eligibility for its services.  Medicaid spending has been growing rapidly for many years, as the costs of medical services have risen and more people have become eligible for benefits.  Restraining Medicaid spending growth is difficult, though the state has done so in recent biennia, partly by cutting the services provided to beneficiaries.

If revenues fall short and Medicaid entitlements can't be cut, the budget must be balanced by cutting other spending categories.  To keep education from being cut, the health and social services, public safety and all other slices must be reduced. But these spending categories make up only 22% of the budget.  If that's not possible, then education must be cut.  The fact that education is such a large part of the budget means that in hard times it is vulnerable to budget cuts.

The state faces tight revenues in the current biennium, and will face tight revenues in 2012 and 2013 as well. That's why education saw limited increases in appropriations in the current budget (apart from the replacement of property tax revenues in K-12 appropriations). That's also why the Governor was forced to order spending cuts for higher education and local schools in December 2009, as revenues fell short.

Links to More Information

To Find: Go To:
Reference material on the 2008 tax reform. This website: Indiana Tax Reform, 2008