It is hard to believe that the 2015 legislative session has come to a close. While each day at the Statehouse presented new challenges, I enjoyed working together with my colleagues and am proud of all that we accomplished for our community and state. However, our greatest accomplishment and the most important bill the General Assembly passed this session was our state’s biennial budget.
The House Republicans made a commitment to pass an honestly balanced budget that protects Hoosier taxpayers, invests in education and focuses additional resources to public safety issues, and I am pleased to say that we successfully accomplished each of these priorities. I am also appreciative of the work Chairman Tim Brown and all the members of Ways and Means have done to craft a structurally balanced budget that maintains healthy reserves. By living within our state’s means, we can continue to protect future generations of Hoosiers in the event of an economic shortfall while also maintaining Indiana’s triple-A credit rating.
Along with maintaining our commitment to fiscal integrity, we were also able to make public safety a spending priority this session in order to address issues like infant mortality and domestic violence. Many of our domestic violence service providers throughout the state are over capacity, and in order for them to continue supporting victims of domestic violence, it is important that they receive adequate resources. In order to further protect Hoosiers in need, the budget doubles funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment programs to $5 million per year.
Additionally, the budget dedicates $13.5 million over the next two years to the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant program, which aims to reduce our state’s alarmingly high infant mortality rate (IMR). Through the Safety P.I.N. grant program, health providers will be able to develop targeted proposals on how to lower the IMR in their communities. As the Vice Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, I had the opportunity to hear testimony from service providers, support agencies and other health professionals on how to combat domestic violence and infant mortality and am pleased that we prioritized these issues in our budget.
Alongside public safety, we made a significant investment in our state’s education system this session, dedicating over half our budget to K-12 education. This is a $474 million increase from the previous two years and the largest increase in state history. We also set out to fix discrepancies in our funding formula, and I am happy to say we were able to follow through on this commitment by raising the foundation level and crafting a more equitable formula for all schools.
Although the legislative session has ended, my work to improve our community and state is ongoing. I encourage you to contact me with your thoughts and opinions regarding the state budget or other issues affecting southeast Indiana. I can be reached at 317-232-9815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties. She serves as Vice Chair of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Courts and Criminal Code Committee and Select Committee on Government Reduction.