I cannot talk about the proposed House Republican budget without first applauding State Representative Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) for all of his hard work crafting the budget in the Ways and Means Committee. As chairman of this committee, he spent a great deal of time developing this blueprint to invest in education, protect the vulnerable and build infrastructure all while protecting Hoosier taxpayers.
As a former Blackford Co. Sheriff and member of the Family, Children and Human Affairs Committee, I am extremely pleased with the funding appropriated for the Department of Child Services (DCS). It is important that we protect the vulnerable and I believe the budget does just that. It provides $4o million in additional DCS funding for each of the next two years. These funds will allow the agency to accomplish the goals set forth by the DCS Summer Study Committee.
In order to keep current employees and attract more qualified individuals, DCS will increase the starting salary for Family Case Managers (FCMs) and provide salary increases for all field staff. They will hire over 210 new FCMs, 50 intake specialists and 10 intake specialist supervisors at the DCS child abuse and neglect hotline. This will help reduce the employee turnover we have seen at the centralized call center and lessen the amount of time callers are on hold to report an issue. Improvements will also be made to health service offerings for children with severe behavioral and mental health needs.
Another way we aim to improve the status of young Hoosiers is through education. In the 2010 budget, many services, state agencies and K-12 schools were drastically cut due to the state being faced with going into the red. After several years of fiscal restraint, we can now say that we have the funds to restore education funding. Funding for K-12 education will increase by $344 million or 3.3 percent over the next two years. Overall, K-12 and higher education funding makes up 58 percent of the proposed budget.
Despite the economic downturn, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills have stayed in demand in Indiana. In fact, there are 2.4 STEM jobs for every one unemployed person. This budget appropriates $10 million to place STEM teachers in the schools that need them the most. This will give students the skills they need to meet the high demands of the growing marketplace.
Last, but certainly not least, this budget will build and maintain infrastructure with sustainable funding. Road and bridge funding will be increased by $250 million per year. As House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) has stated, you cannot be the crossroads of America and have severely outdated infrastructure.
While I believe this budget will guide us in the right direction, it is important to note that this is still a work in progress. Many changes will be made before the final proposal is submitted and that includes the possibility of the addition of Gov. Pence’s proposed tax cut. That option has not been taken off the table and I look forward to hearing debate on this particular issue. The most important factor in determining my personal decision on this issue will be hearing feedback from my constituents.
Please feel free to contact me with your views and concerns on the 10 percent tax cut as well as any other ideas you have about the state budget. I can be reached by phone at 317-232-9509 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Indiana.