Indiana News

County Officeholders Question Legality of Mayor's New Budget Authority

5/13/2013


Marion County legislators, county officeholders, and city-county councillors denounced a new law giving Mayor Greg Ballard more authority over county budgets at a news conference earlier this month. (WIBC.com file photo: Eric Berman)

Marion County officeholders aren't ruling out a court challenge to a law giving the mayor of Indianapolis control over their budgets.

The same law which abolishes four at-large seats on the City-County Council lets the city controller withhold part of county officeholders' budgets if money isn't coming in as fast as expected. But every county office except assessor is created by the state constitution. Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry says the law specifically prohibits the mayor from vetoing the budget of a constitutional office, and says granting the controller impoundment power would still violate that law.

In the specific case of the prosecutor's office, Curry says there's a second reason the law can't be enforced: prosecutors and judges are officially state offices. The county's only role is to fund them. Courts have successfully ordered county councils to pony up more money when counties have passed inadequate budgets.

Curry declares he won't be bound by the budgetary restriction, but says it's too soon to say how he'll make that vow stick. He says a lawsuit is one possibility. He says he'll continue to cooperate with city officials in crafting the next budget.

Governor Pence signed the bill on Saturday, saying the mayor's need to ensure fiscal stability outweighed his own misgivings about eliminating the four council seats. He says the fact that all four at-large seats are held by Democrats gives the move a partisan appearance, whether intended or not.

Democrats hold all county offices.

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