Late Monday morning, we began hearing word that House Democrats were on their way to Illinois. As the minority caucus, a "walk-out" is one of the most effective tools that they can use. Even though the Republicans hold the majority, at least six Democrats are needed to have a quorum - enough members in attendance to conduct business - so everything was put on hold. Not only that, but 23 bills died that contained a total of $41 million in relief for Hoosiers.
As a freshman legislator, I have been eager to carry the voice of my constituents here to the Statehouse. In my career, I have learned that whether or not you agree with something, part of the job is showing up and participating in the discussion. That's part of the democratic process, and it's disappointing that the Democrats seem to have forgotten this.
Because we were unable to conduct business, bills that had an end-of-the-week deadline have now been pushed to next week. Among these bills was the budget.
For the last 130 years, Indiana lawmakers have successfully passed a state budget. I don't see why this year should break that longstanding tradition.
The budget proposed is a $27.9 billion, two-year plan that does not include tax increases, but does keep in mind Indiana's revenue shortfall.
The budget has been crafted in a way that will leave Indiana with a structural balance by 2013, while also maintaining sufficient reserves and protecting K-12 education. As I said, it will not raise taxes, but will create a taxpayer-friendly climate and provide incentives for more businesses to bring jobs into Indiana.
From what I have seen, I can't get my mind around why the Democrats are protesting the budget. Gov. Mitch Daniels provided recommendations for the budget, as he does every budget year, and many of those were included. One of those recommendations is making sure that as a state; we live within our means and make do with less.
Education funding remains the top priority, making up nearly half of the total state budget. It would preserve current statewide tuition support funding for K-12 schools for both 2012 and 2013. In addition, it funds most Department of Education's grant programs that are related to student instruction, including full day kindergarten and textbook reimbursements.
The budget would also eliminate the "de-ghoster," and instead pay schools for students who are actually enrolled. The money needs to follow the student and reflect enrollment, thus evening out the differences between schools that get too much per-pupil funding and the schools that get too low of an amount.
Most districts are currently above their average target amounts, and the proposed funding formula aims to move each school district toward its target amount of per-pupil funding.
The budget could very well change over the course of the next few months. I'll keep you updated on those changes, or you can follow them for yourself at www.in.gov/legislative.
There are 49 bills on the calendar for Monday, and I hope that the Democrats show up to do the business that they were elected to do. I'll be here, as always, ready and willing to serve.