Via the Indiana Law Blog:
From the docket in the toll road case, BONNEY, STEVE ET AL.-V- INDIANA FINANCE AUTHORITY, ET AL:
6/20/06 ISSUED THE ENCLOSED OPINION:
6/20/06 2006 TERM
THE ORDER OF THE TRIAL COURT IS AFFIRMED. — BOEHM, J.
SHEPARD, C.J., AND SULLIVAN AND RUCKER, JJ., CONCUR
DICKSON, J., NOT PARTICIPATING.
19 PAGES MS
Opinion available here.
The Court found that the Indiana Finance Authority is a “municipal corporation,” despite its statewide scope because of the General Assembly’s Humpty-Dumpty powers of defining words to mean what they wish them to mean. IC 34-6-2-86(1)(B) requires only that the IFA be a public instrumentality or public corporate body created by state law to be regarded as a “municipal corporation.”
The Supreme Court further determined that the Plaintiffs did not raise any substantial issues to be tried. I’m generalizing (and paraphrasing), but the Supreme Court essentially concluded that appropriations are not special legislation and so throwing pork at particular counties to get the Toll Road legislation passed didn’t constitute special legislation.
The Supreme Court further concluded that the State no longer has “public debt” under Article X, Section 2 of the Indiana Constitution. In a footnote, the Court notes that it does not believe that the question of whether the Toll Road transaction is a lease or a sale is dispositive to the Plaintiff’s contention that the statute violates Art. X, Sec. 2; rather it’s the fact that the State no longer has any public debt.
Because state law has set up entities like the Indiana Finance Authority to issue debt secured by money controlled by the State rather than having the State incur the debt directly, there is no public debt, says the Court. The Court also noted that debts of local government do not constitute public debt — a point that makes a lot of sense to me. I did not see how the Court addressed unfunded retirement obligations of the State under PERF and TRF.
The Court appears to have avoided a major confrontation with the Governor and the General Assembly primarily through two definitional maneuvers: “muncipal corporation” doesn’t have to have anything to do with a municipality; and “public debt” doesn’t refer to debt for which the public is ultimately responsible.