Cherry: A breakdown of the House budget proposal

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, March 17, 2017 10:26 am

The Indiana House of Representatives crafted and approved a proposal for the state’s next biennial budget, which is now being considered by the Senate. The budget appropriates funds to various services like K-12 and higher education, public safety and Medicaid. As vice chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I worked with fellow lawmakers to help draft a fair and balanced budget. Our proposal devotes 52 percent of the state general fund to K-12 education, 12 percent to higher education and 12 percent to Medicaid, leaving only 24 percent for other essential government services. There are four main priorities that we focused on while developing our budget for the next two years.

One of our top goals was fiscal integrity. Building on our last three honestly balanced budgets, our current proposal keeps Indiana’s spending in line with revenue while also maintaining prudent reserves. These two critical aspects of our state budget will help maintain our AAA credit rating with all three major credit rating agencies. Keeping this status lowers the borrowing costs for governments at the state and local level.  Our reserves also act as a rainy day fund, protecting priorities like school funding from sudden economic downturns.

Our budget proposal strengthens our commitment to students and teachers. Our last two state budgets contained the largest education spending increases in state history. In the proposed House budget, K-12 funding is set to increase by 2.8 percent over the biennium. This increase in funding includes more special education grants, additional funding for the On My Way Pre-K pilot program to assist at-risk children and more dollars for English-language-learners. There are also proposed appropriations to innovative education programs like career pathways, STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) alignment and school internet connectivity.

House Republicans also want to improve and retain Indiana’s workforce. In order to compete globally, Indiana must grow its workforce over the next several years. Our budget proposal creates workforce ready grants to encourage Hoosiers to pursue high-value certificates in high-wage, high-demand fields. In addition, the budget supports a number of ways to grow the Hoosier economy with efforts like the creation of the Indiana Bioscience Research Institute, a program to research and develop innovative health solutions.

Our final budget priority is to support public safety. First we hope to do this by attacking the opioid epidemic. I know that treating addiction as a disease is key to fighting this issue. Over the next biennium, we want to dedicate $185 million to corrections programs that focus on the rehabilitation of those facing addiction – not just incarceration. Under this proposal, there would be several programs and positions created, including an Executive Director of Drug Treatment, Prevention and Enforcement. We also want to support public safety by backing the brave men and women that protect our state. Our state law enforcement officers work hard to keep our communities safe, but are underpaid compared to other states. House Republicans have proposed a salary increase for Indiana State Police, Department of Natural Resources officers, Alcohol and Tobacco Commission officers and gaming agents. Additionally, our budget proposal would raise funding for the Department of Child Services, adult protective services, the Guardian ad Litem program and the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s Housing First program. All of these programs will continue protecting our most vulnerable Hoosiers.

A lot of discussion is still happening at the Statehouse, and our proposed budget can change while being considered by the Senate. Please contact me with any questions during this process at 317-232-9651 or h53@iga.in.gov. You can also sign up for my e-newsletters to receive weekly updates at www.in.gov/h53/.

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Rep. Cherry represents House District 53, which

includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties.

He serves as Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

A high-resolution photo of Cherry can be downloaded by clicking here.