Gov. Daniels hands out checks from surplus; House Republicans hand out promises

GOP leaders pledge to retain fiscal integrity

INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Mitch Daniels handed out some big checks Thursday to Indiana's government retirees.

The checks are designed to protect the pension funds that pay their benefits.

The governor said he'd soon have precise information on the amount Hoosier taxpayers will get back next spring from the automatic refund program. 

Daniels said the checks are a direct result of state government's frugal ways and that they should give retirees confidence in their financial security.

The checks totaled almost $361 million.

They come from the amount above and beyond the budget surplus the state is supposed to keep.

The Teachers Retirement Fund got the biggest chunk -- $207 million -- with the rest going to judges, state police, prosecutors and conservation, gaming and excise officers.

Daniels called Indiana's pension funds the most secure in the country and said Thursday's action will make them even safer.

He contrasted that to other states.

"We don't know how it's going to work out, but it's very, very clear that many states and some localities are never, ever going to be able to honor obligations that they made," said Daniels. "That'll never be the case in Indiana."

An equal amount from the surplus will go to taxpayers as refunds next spring.

Daniels said he'd have precise information on the amount of those refunds later in October.

The governor said he can't speak for his successor, but he said the way state revenues are tracking, there should be another batch of checks next year. 

Meanwhile, House Republicans were pledging to protect the state's fiscal position if they retain their majority.

They unveiled a three-point program including a balanced budget, improved career education in high schools to match students with high-potential careers and promotion of early childhood education and shoring up key areas of teacher shortages, like math and science.

"So again, as we have for the last six, prior to the last six budget sessions, pledge to pass a balanced budget that isn't built on delays and gimmicks,” said Rep. Brian Bosma, R-Speaker.

House Democrats issued a statement saying that they have tried to pass early childhood education initiatives three times only to be stymied by Republican opposition.

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