2015-05-05 / Front Page

Indiana General Assembly Closes With Approval Of State’s Biennial Budget

Staff Report

Indiana’s 2015 General Assembly closed Wednesday, April 29 with a new biennial budget intact, providing additional funding for K-12 and higher education, state and county roadways, as well as public safety.

“After months of effort, the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly has come to a close, marked by historic investments in education, innovation and reform,” Governor Mike Pence (R) said via press release. “From the outset of this session, I called on our General Assembly to make this an education session and fund excellence in education in all our schools from pre-K to career and technical education opportunities at the high school level, and I am truly grateful for the dedication of members of the Indiana General Assembly who have advanced reforms in education that will benefit all our kids, our families, our teachers, and our schools.”

Budget highlights include increasing K-12 education funding by 2.3 percent in 2016 and 2017 for a total of $474 additional dollars. State universities will each received $197 more in the next two years, including a $25 million onetime expense for repair and maintenance of regional campuses.

“On education, this budget continues the pre-K pilot program started last year and includes a historic investment in K-12 education, including performance funding for teachers and a smarter school funding formula that ensures that dollars more closely follow the child,” Pence said. “It invests in our vision to make career and technical education a priority so our students can develop the skills they need to succeed in today’s work place. It includes first-ever facilities funding for public charter schools, and supports school choice for Hoosier families and students by eliminating the cap on vouchers and increasing the cap on the Scholarship Granting Organization tax credit.”

The state’s community corrections programs will receive funding totaling $116,000,000 over the next two years, while offender mental health and addition treatment will be increased by $30,000,000 to fund the Larue Carter Mental Health Hospital building plan.

State highways will receive $200,000,000 from Major Moves 2020 funds. A new statewide ‘Launch Indiana’ program will be established to help aspiring Indiana entrepreneurs. Up to $84,000,000 will be provided to Governor Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative, funded with proceeds from a tax amnesty program.

“We are expanding on our efforts to attract new investment to Indiana by reforming the tax code to improve our business climate and providing $200,000,000 for Major Moves 2020 road projects,” Pence said. “We also invested in the Regional Cities Initiative, which sets the framework for neighboring communities across the state to work together to develop a vision to promote economic growth on a regional basis.

“Finally, this General Assembly and our Administration have seen to the health and well-being of Hoosiers, especially our children, by providing a subsidy for parents who adopt a child from the state foster care system and funding new caseworkers at the Department of Child Services. We applaud efforts to tackle the heartbreak of infant mortality, see to the needs of our state’s veterans, prevent domestic violence, and create the state’s first fire training academy to better prepare our public safety workers.”

The budget also outlines revenues exceeding ongoing expenditures, projecting $1.85 billion in state reserves at the end of the two-year cycle.

The general assembly also voted to pass SJR 19, a balanced budget amendment for the state constitution.

“Hoosiers will also be glad to know that we have continued to uphold our fiscal integrity by passing a balanced budget and begun the process of adding a balanced budget amendment to the Indiana Constitution to require future state governments to spend wisely, live within their means, and protect our children and grandchildren from facing mountains of debt,” Pence added.

Indiana District 46 State Representative Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute) was instrumental in the inclusion of a $101.5 million appropriation within the two-year budget to fund improvements at Indiana State University (ISU).

“I was proud to support and help pass our state’s biennial budget, which appropriates $101.5 million in capital construction funds to Indiana State University,” said Heaton, an alumnus of ISU. “This is a historic high in state funding for the University and will be used for two high priority projects; the renovations of the Hulman Center and the Life Sciences building. These funds are crucial to the growth of this university and benefits the entire Wabash Valley. Along with being honestly balanced, almost two-thirds of the budget is dedicated to K-12 and higher education, so I am pleased that we were able to increase that investment, benefiting students and teachers alike.”

Along with the budget, Indiana District 37 State Senator Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) led four pieces of legislation through the session.

House Enrolled Act 1108 will require elementary educators to be knowledgeable in distinguishing symptoms of dyslexia in order to intervene before a child falls severely behind.

Senate Enrolled Act 4, SEA 171 and SEA 199 all make various technical corrections to Indiana Code.

Senate Enrolled Act 306 will protect property owners from liability to injury from someone trespassing on their property.

Senate Enrolled Act 307 increases legal protections against financial exploitation and fraud.

“As this session comes to a close, I am proud to see the legislation that has made it to the Governor’s desk and will soon be enacted as law,” Bray said. “House Enrolled Act 1108 will help thousands of Hoosier children in their journey to learn with dyslexia. I have studied this issue closely and look forward to seeing this legislation put into action.”

Indiana District 39 State Senator Eric Bassler (R-Washington) learned a great deal about the state lawmaking process during his first session in Indianapolis.

“This session, legislators passed an array of much-needed, common sense legislation,” Bassler said. “My first session at the statehouse was a great learning experience. In the months to come, I look forward to spending more time in my district and hearing the thoughts and reactions from those I serve in regards to recently passed legislation.”

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