(INDIANAPOLIS) – The economic damage of the coronavirus pandemic is starting to come into focus.
After outperforming the budget seven months in a row, Indiana missed last month’s target by $63 million, after the state shut down for the final week of the month to seek shelter from the virus. About a fifth of the losses are from lost wagering taxes — casinos were ordered to shut down a week before the rest of the state followed suit.
In April, casinos will be closed for most or all of the month, wiping out another $49 million dollars. But those taxes are just a fraction of Indiana’s budget. The real earthquake will come from the postponement of Wednesday’s tax filing deadline into July. That’s a billion dollars the state won’t receive, on top of a big drop in sales taxes from the businesses which have shut down.
State budget director Cris Johnston has said previously Indiana will dip into its $2 billion reserve to
keep state and local government operations afloat while waiting for those tax returns to arrive. But he warns the losses will affect not only the current budget, but future ones. He says the administration is likely to ask for an updated forecast this summer to start planning early for next year’s budget talks.
The federal pandemic relief bill will bring Indiana $600 million in budget help, mostly for schools and
universities. An additional $2.4 billion can be spent only on direct costs of the pandemic.
Governor Holcomb has named a five-member task force to plan and administer how that money is
spent: former Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman, former Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, former state budget director Ryan Kitchell, former George W. Bush economic adviser Al Hubbard, and Fort Wayne banker Kristin Marcuccilli.
Commerce Secretary Jim Schellinger says he’s still talking daily with prospective new businesses so the state can hit the ground running when things get back to normal. He says 62 deals averaging nearly 200 jobs apiece are in the pipeline, but executives have put off finalizing things — in some cases because the team members they want to consult are working from home.