Despite promises during Organization Day at the Indiana Legislature, those hoping for a smaller government from a GOP governor and supermajority are likely to be disappointed in the upcoming session. That is according to the findings of a research project categorizing the more than 1,000 bills introduced into a typical General Assembly.
Nor did Gov. Eric Holcomb’s list of goals released in advance of Organization Day offer hope there would be significant cuts in spending or the size of government. Rather, he promised to “cultivate a strong and diverse economy, maintain and build the state’s infrastructure and develop a 21st century skilled and ready workforce.” Moreover, the leaders of both houses say they may push for additional funding this session in public education.
That, according to Saurab Chaudhry, a researcher for the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, would match the pattern found in an audit of the 1,250 measures introduced in the last General Assembly, a budget session.
Chaudhry sorted those House and Senate measures that were assigned a committee into one of five general categories and 21 subcategories. Of the five general categories — “Tax Reorganization,” “Special Interest,” “Government Reorganization,” “Shrinks Government” and “Expands Government” — the great majority in both houses sought to make state government bigger with only a fraction seeking to make it smaller.
“To get a better picture of the legislative landscape, it was important to know how many bills were introduced in specific categories.” Chaudhry said. Routine daily news reports simply can’t give us that kind of information, he noted, and the legislative process tends to obscure it, nothing being named the “Make Government Bigger” committee.
For every measure the Senate considered that would shrink government, for example, it considered more than seven that would make it larger, according to the study.
Chaudhry says he kept an eye on the number of bills proposed in the Special Interest category. “One hypothesis was that there would be a good number of bills in this category, and in fact we found that legislators are considering an inordinate number that are narrowly defined and seemingly written to help only a small group,” he said.
That finding, Chaudhry explained, conforms to a public-choice theory of economics predicting that the incentive of a special interest to pass benefiting legislation will greatly outweigh the incentive of taxpayers, who bear only a small cost individually, to oppose it even when they consider it bad policy.