Ballard announces line-item veto of 2013 Indianapolis budget
Mayor Greg Ballard is drawing a line in the sand when it comes to the city budget. Friday, he used his line-item veto powers to make several changes to the 2013 budget recently approved by the Democratic-controlled council. It prompted cries of "my way or the highway" accusations from Democrats.
On the same day the mayor honored the city's newest police recruit class of 16 officers, telling them, "Your role in implementing the city's top priority which is public safety is crucial," he also stood by his decision not to fund any new recruit classes for next year.
"We all want more police officers but we have to keep the budget in line," Ballard said.
As expected, he nixed the council's plan to pay for future classes with a one-time payment of $15 million from the Capital Improvement Board. The CIB runs the city's sports venues.
Council Democrats wanted to impose a PILOT or "Payment in Lieu of Property Taxes," on the CIB saying the city spends millions of dollars on police and fire protection during Colts and Pacers games and other events at CIB venues.
"We really believe this hurts public safety," said Maggie Lewis, City-County Council president. "There's no money for training, recruit classes and no raises for law enforcement officers."
The mayor called using a one-time payment to shore up the budget for one year "irresponsible," saying the CIB didn't have extra money to provide.
What Democrats didn't expect was that the mayor would slash $32 million from county agencies. That amounts to a 17-percent cut for the clerk, sheriff, treasurer and six other countywide offices all held by Democrats.
The mayor also stripped all funding, $652,000, from the City County Council office.
'We cannot do the people's business. We no longer have dollars for attorneys. We can't pay our light bills. We won't have space for our computers and staff," warned Lewis.
"That was purely petty partisan politics," said Vern Brown (D-City-County Council).
"Have I really done that? Come on, it's pretty obvious what's going on," said the mayor.
Of the cuts, he said, "It was a good match numbers-wise but I'd like to think they could come along and help with finding inefficiencies."
The mayor said city agencies have faced cuts the last few years.
"We have better services with less money. Look at DPW and snow removal, the Mayor's Action Center. We do better with less," said the mayor.
All council Democrats along with the nine Marion County elected officials issued a statement accusing the mayor of "my way or the highway politics."
They called his budget decisions, "reckless, irresponsible, and in fact, unlawful for the mayor to decide to cut critical services like prosecution of crimes, death investigations, court administration and child support."
FOP Bill Owensby said he was uninterested in taking sides or getting in the middle of the fray.
Owensby said, "What I want is public safety funding. How they get there, that's for those with experience to decide."
Democrats acknowledge they do not have the votes to override the mayor's vetoes, but say they there's still plenty of time to work something out.
The council and county offices are funded through year's end.
Lewis said, "I think we'll all go to our separate corners and see what happens next."
The mayor, citing concerns that the budget passed by the council leaves a $35 million deficit by the end of 2013, said he is vetoing the following:
· Allocation of $31,767,652 in County Option Income Tax (COIT) to the County General Fund.
That will force county agencies like the treasurer, prosecutor and sheriff to cut spending by #32 million. The mayor's office says this will prompt the State Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) to reduce County General Fund spending to match available revenues. The non-allocated funds will be held by the Marion County Treasurer until "such a time as it is allocated by the City-County Council with Mayor Ballard's approval."
Earlier this year, a state computer error put millions of dollars back in the hands of local communities. Metro Police and the Marion County Sheriff's Department face a collective budget deficit of more than $30 million. The mayor has said he wants to put the money in reserve.
· Character 3 budget of the City-County Council ($652,654). This covers outside vendor contracts, which includes $100,000 the Council majority requested for re-redistricting.
· Creation of the Police and Fire Recruiting Fund. The mayor's office says the fund "does not contain any funding nor was any directed to it in the budget."