Indiana constitutional amendment ballot question sparks confusion

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A constitutional amendment question on the Nov. 6 ballot is confusing to some Hoosiers. 

Others said they are concerned about the question and wonder if social media chatter about it is true. 

The question: 

“Shall Article 10, Section 5 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended to require the General Assembly to adopt balanced budgets for state government that do not exceed estimated revenues unless a super majority of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives and two-thirds of the members of the Senate vote to suspend the requirement?”

Voters will pick “yes” or “no.”

News 8 shared the ballot question with some people on the streets of Indianapolis. 

Jared Roberts looked at the sample ballot and said, “It’s confusing to me, honestly.” 

DevonDre Burrell said, “No matter how you read it, it makes, like, no sense.”  

State lawmakers said they have heard rumors, and viewers have reached out to News 8 for help.  

According to the rumors, if the measure passes, the state could reduce or even raid public pensions including those of teachers, police or firefighters to make up for budget shortfalls.  

The legislation’s author said that rumor is not true. 

Brandt Hershman, a former Republican state senator from Wheatfield in northwest Indiana, said, “There’s a just flat-out incorrect statement being spread this somehow hurts pensions. Nothing could be further from the truth.” 

Hershman said the language was approved by two state legislatures. He helped craft the language with Vice President Mike Pence when he was Indiana’s governor. 

“What it means is Indiana has to spend no more than it takes in and that we have to fund our pension obligations for public retirees first, off the top, before we consider any other priorities,” Hershman said. “It also allows, in times of state emergency, for that requirement to be waived, which we felt was a responsible thing to do.” 

“Right now, a simple majority could pass an unbalanced budget,” Hershman said. “By raising that threshold to two-thirds, we make it far more difficult for anyone to pass an unbalanced budget.” 

State Sen. Jeff Raatz, a Republican from Centerville in east-central Indiana, said, “If the balanced budget amendment passes, it puts an additional layer: a supermajority versus a simple majority, or two-thirds the House and Senate, would have to vote in favor ot taking any money from any place and put it into ‘operating.'” 

Marion County Clerk Myla Eldridge encouraged voters to do their research on candidates and ballot questions before they vote. 

“It’s also important to know who you are voting for because those individuals, once they are elected, will be the voice for you and making decisions on behalf of you as a voter. It’s critical, actually,” the clerk said. 

Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Keith Gambill issued a statement about the ballot question:

“The balanced budget amendment is more about political posturing than fiscal soundness. It might make for a good soundbite for voters, but supporters of the amendment that equate Indiana’s vast government accounting with household accounting are being overly simplistic — especially when essential services for Hoosiers are at stake. Simply put, this amendment gives the state little or no room to get through tough economic times. We urge voters to learn more about this issue and vote ‘no.’”

“The balanced budget amendment was intended to show that then Governor Pence was a leader and was protecting us from a threat. But Mike Pence is gone and there never was a threat. We have had a balanced budget requirement since 1851 with which we have complied. At best this amendment is a source of confusion” State Rep. Ed DeLaney said in a statement on Thursday. 

To read the question for yourself in a sample ballot, click here.

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