We have reached the midpoint of the 2015 legislative session which means that House and Senate bills will now switch chambers for further consideration. The House has filed over 660 bills and well over 100 of them have passed. However, the most important bill we have passed this session is House Bill (HB) 1001, Indiana’s biennial budget.
In previous columns, I have mentioned the House Republicans’ legislative agenda, which focuses on strengthening education, increasing transparency and supporting public safety initiatives. The House budget reflects these priorities by funding new and existing initiatives that serve the interests of Hoosiers.
The House budget prioritizes safety by committing more resources to protecting the public. We allocated funds for a Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) Grant Program which allows groups to apply for a grant to reduce and prevent infant mortality. We have also appropriated $2 million per year to expand the assistance provided by the 2-1-1 dialing service to include infant mortality and domestic violence. In addition, the budget doubles funding to provide assistance for victims of domestic violence.
While public safety is a top priority, at the heart of the budget is education. We have dedicated more money than ever before to funding Hoosier education, increasing the amount by $469 million over the biennium for a total of $16 billion through fiscal year 2017. By reworking the funding formula, we were able to raise the foundation level of dollars guaranteed per pupil for every student. We were also able to increase funding for special education grants that schools receive for students with moderate to severe disabilities.
Furthering our efforts to strengthen education, the budget incorporates innovative concepts to support Hoosier students. We have dedicated more funds for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teachers to better prepare students to compete in today’s technology-driven job market. We have also funded our Freedom to Teach initiative, which frees educators from burdensome regulations and allows them to apply creative teaching methods in the classroom. To support teachers, we also included funding to provide a $200 tax credit for teachers who purchase classroom supplies.
Even though the budget supports a variety of initiatives, it remains honestly balanced and protects Hoosier taxpayers. The House Republicans have a history of fiscal integrity, and this year we followed that pattern of responsible spending by maintaining our healthy reserves, which will protect our state in the event of another economic recession. It also allows Indiana to keep its AAA credit rating. By crafting an honestly balanced budget, we are working to ensure that our children will inherit opportunities and financial stability rather than debt.
I appreciate your continued feedback on issues affecting our state. Please continue to contact me with your concerns. You can reach me by phone at 317-232-9509 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Mahan represents portions of Blackford, Delaware, Grant and Wells counties. He serves as Chairman of the Government and Regulatory Reform Committee. He also serves on the Family, Children and Human Affairs; and Insurance Committees.