Monday, August 28, 2017

Battle Over Budget More Bore Than Big Deal

Mayor Joe Hogsett
Joe Hogsett has done a great job fiscally as Mayor of Indianapolis.  

That’s what the latest kerfuffle over the budget has told me. 

The Indianapolis Mayor has garnered wide praise from both sides of the aisle when it comes to the relationship with the City-County Council when compared with that of his immediate predecessor. Suddenly, some in the GOP are now accusing Mayor Hogsett of overselling the city's fiscal state even while they claim it's actually good.

If you haven’t been following the news recently, the Indianapolis Star's James Briggs has a pretty good wrap-up of the story here. According to the piece, Republicans like Councillor Jeff Miller are praising Mayor Hogsett’s budget as "probably one of he best" in 10 years while simultaneously still disputing just how good it is. 

Pretty boring times at the City-County Building betwixt the two major parties when the only fodder that the Republicans can throw at the Democratic Mayor is, “Your budget is good…but…but…it’s not as good as you say!”

Quite a change from the eight years previous to Mayor Hogsett’s term, isn’t it? You remember it. The Council and then Mayor Greg Ballard fought over seemingly every project and every contract. 

Lawsuits were filed. Ballard accused some his own party of playing politics against him. A longtime GOP (now Democratic) Councillor was primaried because she stood up to the Mayor.  All the while, Ballard was spend spend spending away on pet projects such as the World Sports Park on Indy’s Eastside and handing out essentially no-bid contracts.

That's part of the issue according to the Hogsett Administration. They tell the Star that if they had not done anything about the budget and spending, Indy was headed for a structural budget deficit of over $50 million.

Republicans have been very quiet, and they clearly sense an opening here to try to make a molehill out of an anthill.  As budget battles go, this is like the battle between pepperoni or sausage on a delicious pizza or what specific color of light blue you wish to paint your wall.  "Do I want light blue or morning blue?"

It's a boring battle of semantics over politics.  The bottom line is that, as Councillor Miller again acknowledges, this is a good budget.


Abdul said...

Hey Jon,

I'll be writing about the budget soon. I promise it will be anything but boring. :-)

Jeff said...

Jon, I think you are not catching the bigger picture. The discussion over whether the structural deficit in 2016 was $50M, $33M, or $38M (all three figures have been given to the same question in the last two weeks) is only the beginning of the concerns I have. If we are unable to determine the structural deficit from 2 years ago, are we really sure we have determined accurately that we have no deficit this year. The story quotes my larger concern that the budget dips %7M into the reserves for IFD, IMPD and Parks. By state law we must balance to the fund balance in our budget. So it does not seem to be structurally balanced if we are moving three key fund balances dangerously low.

I meant it when I said it is a very good budget and likely the best I've seen in my time on the council. I am not outright panning the budget, but rather complimenting it for the good that it does and questioning it at the same time for what it doesn't seem to do. My job is made much harder as a councillor if we oversell the budget. It is my responsibility as the fiscal body of the city to ask probing questions. To dismiss my questions as political, boring, and as meaningless as picking a pizza topping is disappointing coming from you. I respect your opinion, but I think it trivializes a very important discussion.

Anonymous said...


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A little present from an old friend:

johnnystir said...

Sometimes when you write one of these posts, you think you are being more clever than you really are. You also think that you are being more clear than you're really being.

While I stand very much behind the piece, and I have received favorable feedback on it, I want to make a distinction and clarification.

Firstly, as Republicans go, there are few in City-County government who are as reasonable and fair-minded as Councillor Jeff Miller. In no way was my blog post aimed at him in a personal manner nor aimed at his judgement as a Councillor. The budget process is complicated, and it's certainly his prerogative and, if he feels so, duty to ask as many questions as he wishes to ask until he feels he has the right answers for his constituents. I am not advocating mindless agreement on this budget or the rubber stamping of anything. Councillor Miller clearly believes there are questions he needs answers to, and that's absolutely fine.

Secondly, write whatever you wish to write, Abdul. The more blog content, the more blog posts for me.

Finally, and this is what I was attempting to get at, this entire budget issue and how it has been framed is a refreshing change from the antagonistic relationship the previous Mayor and the Council had with one another. That includes Mayor Ballard's relationship with Councillors of his own party.

I'm sorry that did not come through more clearly in the blog post.