While we've been busy, we haven't been without some excitement. We released our budget this week - one that includes no tax increases, structural balance by the end of the 2013 fiscal year, maintained sufficient reserves to protect taxpayers and protect K-12 education.
Other states have raised taxes by over $36 billion since the start of the recession, but we have crafted a budget that won't take more from taxpayers.
At a time when states like Texas are considering cutting school funding, over half of the state budget is dedicated to K-12 and higher education - more than the national average of thirty-five percent. Even though Hoosiers have had to tighten our belts a little and live within our means, we are still dedicated to our children's education.
We know that these goals won't be accomplished without significant sacrifice. We will have to decide together what path is best for Hoosiers, while always keeping in mind that the status quo is not an option.
Simply maintaining current spending levels would drive Indiana's finances into the red before the end of the biennium and leave us no choice but to raise taxes. It will be a challenge, yet we can and will craft a responsible budget.
The budget is a key piece of legislation that will be heard this session, but it's not the only one. We heard some bills that would improve the well-being of Hoosiers, including one that I co-authored, House Bill 1267.
This bill would require drug testing for unemployment recipients as a part of the hiring process. If an unemployment benefit recipient's drug test is found positive, the legislation would require the prospective employer to consult the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to stop the recipient from receiving further benefits.
The recipient could also be disqualified by refusing to submit a drug test when he or she is asked. Additionally, if a recipient's benefits have been disqualified due to a positive drug test, they may resume receiving benefits with the submission of a negative drug test to the DWD.
With this bill, we are not trying to force responsible behavior; however, it would hold more people accountable by not rewarding bad behavior. It's important that those who are eager to get back to work can.
House Bill 1267 passed out of the House unanimously and will now move on to the Senate. As always, I encourage you to follow the bill's progress at www.in.gov/legislative.
We also heard legislation that will improve Indiana's economic climate.
House Bill 1005 would focus on incentivizing the use of unused, existing facilities to help revitalize hard-hit communities. To do this, it would create an Industrial Recovery Tax Credit, also known as a Dinosaur Building Tax Credit, to provide incentives for companies to invest in facilities in need of major rehabilitation.
House Bill 1006 would streamline the process for businesses to register and obtain necessary licenses and permits. The bill would also provide a much-needed push for more entrepreneurial programs, which would provide young Hoosiers with the necessary skills needed to start their own businesses.
Both of these bills passed out of the House unanimously and will move on to the Senate.
We're taking steps in the right direction to creating an economic climate that brings economic relief to Indiana. This, in addition to passing a balanced budget, will help Indiana come out of this recession at the front of the pack.