The start of the 116th Indiana General Assembly is finally here. We have a lot on our agenda and much to accomplish this session. So hold on tight and bear with us, because it is going to get bumpy.
The 2009 legislative session has brought 23 newly elected state senators and representatives to the 150-member legislative body. The Senate is still has a Republican majority, and the House still has a Democrat majority. However, the House Republicans still believe that no matter who controls the House, we will all work in a bipartisan manner to find solutions to the issues facing Indiana.
We are in a long session this year, and, by law, the General Assembly must conclude all of our work by midnight April 29. We obviously have a lot of work to do before then, and it will not be easy. House Republicans have plans to improve education, increase job creation, establish an honestly balanced budget and pass the constitutional caps for property taxes so that Hoosier voters can have their say on the issue in 2010.
My major goal this session will be to concentrate on local government. Local government should have a say in what is best for their area. Therefore, I do not think we should make legislation that assumes all local government is the same; one size does not fit all. We need to pass legislation that will enable voters to let their voice be heard and decide what is best.
Another goal will be to protect Hoosier taxpayers by developing an honestly balanced budget that keeps state government operating efficiently and holds the line on spending. We have to reduce and control spending at all levels of government, which includes state, counties, cities, towns, schools and libraries. State spending growth should be restricted to the average income growth for Hoosiers. Indiana has to learn to live within its means.
A priority should be that education will not be cut in order to fund other areas of government. House Republicans propose that 65 percent of education funding be sent back to the classroom, instead of the current 61 percent. More dollars sent to the classroom means better-paid, more proficient teachers and smaller class sizes. This is an investment in Indiana's future, especially since education is a proven economic development tool.
Along with improving education, Indiana needs to keep attracting new jobs to our communities. House Republicans believe the best way to attract companies is to pass legislation that will give them incentives to bring their business to Indiana. We have been a national leader in job attraction, and we attend to keep it that way.
Finally, I want to also clear up some confusion concerning why the state doesn't want to spend the Rainy Day Fund. The fund consists of an estimated $400 million, which makes up about 5 percent of the state budget. Please understand that this amount is not considered a surplus. Therefore, it is imperative for the state to protect its fiscal reserves. We cannot spend money today when we are uncertain about tomorrow. The state of the economy is bad, but it can always get worse and spending unnecessary money now is imprudent. As a state, we are far better than other states in the Midwest and better than most states in the country.
As always, please contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns throughout the 2009 session. I always enjoy speaking with constituents to get a better understanding of any concerns you may have. I would also like to encourage you to fill out my legislative survey, which will give me a better idea of how to effectively serve you.
You can log onto http://www.in.gov/surveytool/public/survey.php?name=hr53_L09_Cherry
I would also like to invite area students to apply for the Statehouse Page Program. The program allows students from across the state to experience the lawmaking process firsthand. Participating Hoosier students are able to observe and join Statehouse activity as a legislative page for a day. If you are interested, please contact my office at 317-232-9620.
If you would like more information you can send letters to state Rep. Bob Cherry, 200 W. Washington St., Room 401, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or you may contact me through e-mail: H53@in.gov or by calling toll-free 1-800-382-9841. I look forward to hearing from you