Indiana Legislative Update – The Good, The Bad, and the COVID

The Good: While the 2021 Indiana fiscal year (FY21) ended on June 30th, yesterday the state officially “closed the books” on the year and reported an even larger state surplus than anyone imagined, esp. after the updated forecast in mid-April that had already increased the anticipated revenue for the year. This significant surplus means that for only the 2nd time since the law was put on the books during the Mitch Daniels’ administration, Hoosier taxpayers will receive automatic taxpayer refunds in 2022 (the first time was in 2012).  

The mid-April revenue forecast used to finalize the biennial budget added $463M to the FY21 projections. Then, in the last 75 days, the state exceeded even those projections by $1.22B (billion!), resulting in nearly $4 billion in the bank at the close of the year. The Legislature appropriated nearly all the money that was expected in education/training, infrastructure, healthcare services, and other priorities, but the new, unexpected income means that nearly $1.1B will be split between pension relief and taxpayer refunds as the statute calls for.

Announcing the results, State Auditor Tera Klutz noted Indiana’s strong reserves, a balanced budget with increased funding for education and public safety, and “on top of all that we are going to give Indiana taxpayers back some of their money.”  State Budget Director Zac Jackson added, “it’s unprecedented for the General Fund reserve balances to increase by nearly $1.7B in less than three months.”

Official calculations won’t be complete until at least November, but House Speaker Todd Huston estimates that each taxpayer will receive a rebate/refund against their 2020 taxes of approximately $170 and Indiana’s pension funds will receive a boost to reduce future liabilities.

The Bad: Other big news came as the state released the ILEARN test results. Though no one expected strong results after the pandemic, the results were worse than expected. Fewer than 29% of Hoosier 3rd through 8th graders passed the English Language Arts (ELA) and math portions of the test. Approximately 36% passed the math portion and 40% passed the ELA portion. About 53% of 5th graders passed the social studies test and just over 37% of 4th and 6th graders passed the science test. Finally, 31% of high school students passed the biology test.

State leaders were quick to note that the results were not an indictment on students, schools, teachers, etc. and legislators approved a “hold harmless” provision during the session. Read the IN Dept. of Education news release to learn more and get links to the full results.

The COVID: Finally, COVID numbers continue to move in the wrong direction. IU NW Researcher Micah Pollak shared data yesterday regarding the growth in average daily new COVID 19 cases over the last 30 days by Indiana health district. District 10 (SW IN) has seen the largest increase with 241% growth in the number of cases over the past 30 days.

  • Today, the State reported 586 new positive cases (759,618 total), 1 new deaths (13,513 total), 3,268 new individuals tested (3,625,957 total), and 14,785 new tests administered (11,008,756 total). There are an additional 426 probable Covid-19 deaths (symptoms & exam consistent w/Covid-19, but no positive test received).  All of this is on the ISDH dashboard at www.coronavirus.in.gov.
  • The positivity rate for ALL tests administered is 8.4% from the beginning of testing and 4.3% for the 7-days ending on 07/08. The positivity rate for unique individuals is 20.9% since the beginning of testing and is 4.7% for the 7 days ending 07/08 (rates trail by 7 days to account for lagging reports).
  • The color-coded county metrics (combines: new cases per 100,000 people in the last week and 7-day positivity rates) updated Wednesday keeps Posey, Vanderburgh & Warrick Counties in yellow (moderate community spread) and moves Gibson County to orange due to an outbreak in a congregate setting. You can find these metrics and how they are calculated by choosing the “County Metrics” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
  • The state also publishes county-level 7-day positivity rates for all tests given. Currently, SW Indiana rates as of 07/08 are: Gibson 15.2%, Posey 8.7%, Vanderburgh 7.6%, Warrick 7.6%, and Spencer 3.9%. You can find the county-level information by choosing the “Positivity” tab above the map of Indiana on the state dashboard.
  • The Vaccination Dashboard shows that through 07/08, 2,883,807 Hoosiers are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. This is 49.6% of Hoosiers over the age of 12 fully vaccinated and SW IN is above average with 51.7% of residents 12+ in Gibson, Posey, Vanderburgh & Warrick fully vaccinated. More than 80% of Hoosiers over the age of 65 are now fully vaccinated.
  • There are 500+  testing sites across the state. You are encouraged to get tested if you have any symptoms or are have had contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • You can see any of the Governor’s Executive Orders here