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(INDIANAPOLIS) — Legislators have a week-and-a-half to figure out how to spend a $3 billion windfall.

Indiana will get $3 billion from the latest federal pandemic relief bill. President Biden signed the “American Rescue Plan” just a month ago, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ryan Mishler (R-Bremen) says there hasn’t been enough time to figure out the best way to spend that much money, within the rules spelled out by the Treasury Department.

The Senate version of a new state budget, which Mishler unveiled last week, earmarks about a

quarter of the money so far, with money for items from mental health to police body cameras. It

also pays for four grant programs legislators were already planning, including a restaurant

assistance fund and local health initiatives.

Mishler says he’s already talking with House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown (R-

Crawfordsville) about those proposals and what else could be added to the final version of the

budget. He says one possibility is to pay off state debt early, to free up interest money for the

future. The Senate budget already includes $110 million in state money for that purpose.

Legislators have been vocal about reasserting the General Assembly’s power of the purse in

deciding where the relief money is spent. Money from last year’s CARES Act was reviewed by the

bipartisan State Budget Committee, which comprises four legislators and state budget director

Zac Jackson, but the essential decisions on how to spend it were made by the Holcomb


Legislators have already passed a bill requiring the budget committee to sign off on any spending

of federal stimulus dollars received when the General Assembly isn’t in session. Holcomb vetoed

that bill last week over a separate provision allowing the legislature to call itself into session to

review emergency declarations.

The Senate budget allocates federal money to state and local water projects, an expansion of

broadband access, a one-time stipend for state troopers, Holcomb’s program to attract more

nonstop flights in and out of Indiana, and a study of how to redevelop the Gary lakefront land being

vacated by the Majestic Star Casino’s move to downtown.

House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) says there’s at least one area where the House will

recommend spending more than what Mishler has proposed: Governor Holcomb’s regional

redevelopment fund, which legislators have rechristened the Regional Economic Acceleration and

Development Initiative (READI). Mishler’s budget sets aside $150 million in federal relief

money for that fund.

Huston says the focus should be on spending which will accelerate Indiana’s emergence from the

pandemic. And he and Mishler both say the state should leave some of the money unallocated for

now, to be available for needs or opportunities which pop up later. Mishler says he has a

percentage in mind, but isn’t revealing it publicly yet.