It was this or raise taxes.
Gov. Mitch Daniels explained his reasons for the massive budget cuts across the state, including those to higher education, during an open forum with the Ball State University and Munice communities Wednesday morning.
"Life is about choices," he said, "... and we did absolutely everything else we could do until we got to the last two categories [K-12 and higher education]."
He used a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the idea that his administration had increased funding to all levels of education for the past few years — 50 percent of the budget went to K-12 education and 13 percent went to higher education before the cuts — but eventually, there wasn't enough left to go around to other areas.
Daniels praised Ball State and President Jo Ann Gora for the way they handled the cuts.
Junior Nathan Wilson said one of his concerns going into the forum was the cuts to higher education. He said hearing Daniels' side of the story was interesting.
"Hearing what he had to say and his explanation, I'm much more comfortable with it," he said. "It wasn't as mean-spirited and reckless as a lot of people would make you believe."
Daniels expressed sparse optimism that the economy would recover soon.
"There are some positive prognostications about the economy," he said, "but I haven't seen it yet."
Despite the continuing dismal economic climate, Daniels proudly pointed out that Indiana is in better shape than most other states. A man in the crowd who moved to Indiana from California asked whether Indiana still enjoyed a budget surplus as it did when he moved here.
Daniels said there is still a budget surplus, but not for long. Even after the cuts, Indiana will probably be in the red at the end of the biennium in June 2011. Without the cuts, however, Indiana would be nearly $1 billion in the hole by the end of the budget cycle.
He said the struggling economy posed future problems for students. He warned them of "two significant, sobering realities" they will face upon graduation: brutal international competition for jobs and having to clean up the messes of earlier generations.
"If we don't summon the gumption to do it, I guess you'll have to," he said. "And it will have to happen."
Questions addressed topics ranging from health care to sustainable energy, property taxes to gerrymandering.
Eric Grilliot, junior social studies education major, said he didn't hear anything eye-opening, but he went into the forum with an open mind and liked the diverse spectrum of issues discussed.
"[Cuts are] happening all over the country, all over the state," he said. "I don't agree with it, but it has to be done."
He expressed hope that the cuts won't have too negative an effect.
Sally Jo Vasicko, co-director of the Bowen Center for Public Affairs, said the forum went well and the audience asked "solid" questions. Daniels' answers may not have been what they wanted to hear in some cases, but he seemed genuine, she said.
"You may agree or disagree with him," Vasicko said, "but I think he has that quality of directness."
Vasicko was happy with the couple hundred people from the Ball State and Muncie communities who about half way filled the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Ballroom. Though it was a "golden opportunity" to have face time with a major politician, she said, and she would've liked to see the room overflowing.
"I think it was a good day for Ball State in the sense of having the sitting governor come and answer questions and be responsive to his constituents," she said.
Daniels stayed a few minutes after the forum ended, despite having an appearance scheduled in northern Indiana soon after, to answer other questions that didn't make it into the time slot.
Wilson, a telecommunications major, asked about cuts to music programs in K-12 education.
"That was great that he took time after to answer questions," he said. "It shows he has people at heart."
Afterward, Daniels said he enjoyed the forum and the questions were "tremendous."
"There are a lot of reasons I love coming to Ball State," he said, "but the quality of questions was the most striking thing."
- Bringing outside businesses and jobs into Indiana
- The General Assembly's most recent legislative session
- Budget cuts to K-12 and higher education
- Interest rates
- Sustainable energy
- Gerrymandering (redistricting)
- Property taxes
- Health care
- The Indiana budget
- Local economies
"Life is about choices ... and we did absolutely everything else we could do until we got to the last two categories [K-12 and higher education]."
- Gov. Mitch Daniels on the budget cuts