[r55] COLUMN: State budget bill passes House

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Tuesday, March 3, 2015

State budget bill passes House

We have officially reached the halfway point of the 2015 legislative session. With several critical deadlines behind us, I am proud of what has been accomplished thus far and that many of the bills we passed will have a positive impact in Southeast Indiana. Over the next couple of months, I look forward to reviewing and discussing the Senate bills assigned to my committee as well as those that come across my desk in the House chamber.

Reflecting on the first half of session, one of the most important bills we voted on was House Bill (HB) 1001, our state’s biennial budget. Last week, Tim Brown, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, presented HB 1001 to the House, and I am pleased it passed with a vote of 69-29. Along with Chairman Brown’s leadership, I applaud the hard work and dedication of all the members of Ways and Means in crafting an honestly balanced budget that protects Hoosier taxpayers while also strengthening our education system.

This legislative session, one of our top priorities was to strengthen our investment in education and our budget reflects that. HB 1001 allocates more than $16 billion to K-12 education, which is the largest investment in our state’s history. This accounts for over half of our entire budget and nearly a $470 million increase from the past two years. Under HB 1001, the foundation level, which is the base amount that each school receives per student, would also increase by 8.7 percent in fiscal year 2016 and 3 percent in the 2017 fiscal year.

In addition to prioritizing school funding, House Republicans are committed to rewarding Indiana’s top educators. Over the biennium, $60 million has been appropriated to school corporations to reward high performing educators. Those dollars would be given as performance bonuses, so teachers, who go above-and-beyond to prepare our children for future success, are compensated for their hard work. HB 1001 also would include a $200 tax credit for teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms.

However, we were only able to make such a large investment in education this session through our proven track record of fiscal integrity and responsible budgeting. We must continue that legacy and plan ahead so we have greater flexibility over spending, rather than restriction. As proposed by Chairman Brown, our budget is structurally balanced and protects Indiana’s AAA credit rating, which very few states have maintained. This allows schools and other state entities to borrow money for less, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. The budget also continues to live within the state’s means and maintain healthy reserves, so future generations of Hoosiers will not be saddled with financial burden.

I am pleased that HB 1001 builds upon our state’s strong fiscal foundation, but it still has a long way to go before reaching the governor’s desk. I encourage you to learn more about our state budget proposal by visiting www.indianahouserepublicans.com or contacting my office at 317-232-9815.

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Rep. Ziemke (R-Batesville) represents portions of Rush, Fayette, Franklin, Ripley and Decatur counties.