Kokomo Tribune. April 10, 2012:
The timing of Gov. Mitch Daniels’ trip to Israel was either really good or really bad.
As members of his administration were breaking the news that the Indiana Department of Revenue had mistakenly withheld $206 million that should have been distributed to local units of government, Daniels was out of the country. He had left for Israel two days earlier, the same day he learned of the mistake. ...
This was the second such snafu turned up in the last four months. In December, state budget analysts discovered $320 million the state didn’t know it had. The result then was more money for victims of last summer’s stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair and funding for all-day kindergarten at schools across the state. This time, the money will be welcomed by local units of government that have been forced in recent years to make painful cuts to their budgets.
Nonetheless, the news has to be troubling for Indiana taxpayers. How can we be certain this latest accounting is any more accurate than the last one or the one before that?
Two top officials at the Department of Revenue already have left their jobs as a result of the mistake. The department’s commissioner, John Eckart, has announced he’ll leave at the end of the current tax season.
That’s probably appropriate. Anyone who still had confidence in the department after the first mistake had surely lost it with the latest revelation.
The state is searching for an outside auditor to review how it could have misplaced $526 million. The state is also looking at new budget controls that would help it identify problems before they reach such a grand scale.
It is appropriate the state has agreed not only to send localities their lost revenue but to pay interest for the amount of time the units of government went without the money. It’s also appropriate officials plan an independent review to find out what went wrong and how to avoid such an error in the future.
It will take all of those things, and a bit of time, to restore public confidence in the state’s ability to manage our tax dollars.
The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, April 5, 2012:
Frank Sullivan’s unexpected resignation from the Indiana Supreme Court did more than add to the swift and surprising change in the court’s makeup. Sullivan is not only one of the best legal minds in the state, but he has also been at the forefront of upgrading court technology to make the judicial system more efficient and more accessible to the public.
Because Sullivan is the third justice to announce his resignation in less than two years, his exit later this year will result in a new majority on the five-member court. Though Hoosiers will probably not see dramatic change the court has a refreshing reputation of being only minimally motivated by politics and ideology three new justices will undoubtedly make their own unique mark on the state’s judicial system. Some of their rulings will affect all Hoosiers. ...
Sullivan joined the four other justices in unanimously ruling that Democrat Vop Osili would not be awarded the secretary of state’s position in the wake of Charlie White’s legal troubles ... Sullivan took a conservative position in a 3-2 ruling in 2002 that upheld drug testing of high school students who participate in extracurricular activities.
And in a 2003 abortion ruling ... Sullivan wrote a decision that concluded Medicaid was not required to pay for all abortions that are medically necessary but must pay for abortions in pregnancies that create a serious risk of substantial impairment of the woman ....
At 62, Sullivan could have multiplied his salary by going into private practice.
Instead, he will become a law professor at Indiana University’s law school in Indianapolis.
His departure should leave Gov. Mitch Daniels with no excuses to finally appoint a woman to the court, one of just two in the nation with no female justice.
Whomever Daniels appoints would do well by striving to meet the standard of inquiry and independence that Sullivan set.