A Dismaying Audit of a GOP Supermajority

A Dismaying Audit of a GOP Supermajority

For the use of the membership only (428 words).

by Craig Ladwig

Despite promises during the recent 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.

What would perhaps be a better use of talent rather than to observe the gross inputs to the sausage grinder would be a positive agenda for lawmakers to consider that would shrink government.  It could be organized in a similar fashion but use wiki like contributions so as to tap the wisdom of the people that is often not tapped by the elected sorts.  By and large an effort like this would not only be appreciated but would also tend to be acted upon.  For instance, Senator Delph had a bill some time back to enable the Senate to tap into more resources.  Others have wished to see more contribution of knowledge from the social sciences to help them guide better social policies for Indiana.  A positive aspect of shrinking government would be to focus the attention and abilities of the elected sorts.  It is difficult enough to handle the basics.  One just cannot even pretend to have expertise on the bloat we now have.  I think IPR had done such a use of talent in something called Mandate for the 90’s (or some such) which was, in retrospect, quite a large part of the Indiana success story.