A Dismaying Audit of a GOP Supermajority

Indiana Policy Review, all rights reserved

by Craig Ladwig

January 6, 2018-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 that 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 said this week that 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 especially keen 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.

Craig Ladwig is editor of the quarterly Indiana Policy Review.

The Indiana Policy Review Foundation is a non-profit education foundation focused on
state and municipal issues. It is free of outside control by any individual,
organization or group. It exists solely to conduct and distribute research on
Indiana issues. Nothing written here is to be construed as reflecting the views of
the Indiana Policy Review Foundation or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage
of any bill before the legislature or to further any political campaign.

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