State tax-funded debt has declined $282 million or 52 percent in the past year, Governor Mike Pence announced Thursday.
The end of the fiscal year report shows the state ended with a surplus of $483 million, which is $93 million higher than the budget bill projected. Its reserve level of more than $1.9 billion is also higher than expected.
The reserves would have automatically put money into the pension stabilization fund, but Pence also opted to pay off $66 million in bonds for the Miami Correctional Facility.
“As I looked at this overall picture, my judgment was that our reserve levels at 13.1 percent are adequate, and that paying down debt, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments, was a more effective use of those resources,” he says.
Pence says paying down those bonds will reduce state spending by approximately $27 million over the next two years.
He also says paying down debt is more beneficial for the state because businesses deciding whether to locate in Indiana first look at the state’s balance sheet to determine whether it is a stable economic environment.
In a statement, House Minority Leader Scott Pelath says the strong fiscal numbers are only meaningful if people are prospering, and that continually high unemployment and schools struggling to do more with fewer resources are proof that millions of Hoosiers are not.
The governor says he is happy with the level of education funding in the budget he signed two months ago.