We’ve gotten through Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the holiday season isn’t quite over yet! The ending of one year and the beginning of another brings about reflection and resolutions. Today, I want to do a bit of reflection on what I consider the top legislative accomplishments of 2013.
Many of these accomplishments center on the fiscally sound, balanced budget that we enacted this past session. At a time when many people were disillusioned with budget talks at the federal level, here in Indiana, we used our Hoosier common sense to draft a budget we can all be proud of. The same way a family creates a budget, we knew we needed to pay down our debts, spend wisely and save wherever possible.
As part of our biennial budget, we paid off various outstanding bonds, eliminating $128 million in debt on two state-owned facilities: the Indiana State Museum and the Forensic Sciences Laboratory. We also provided cash funding for nearly $225 million in state and university capital projects. This saves taxpayer money versus debt financing, and doesn’t strap more debt on the backs of future generations of Hoosiers.
In addition, we made strategic financial investments and restorations to many vital programs. One of the most significant restorations was made to education. When the economy took a turn for the worse, education funding in Indiana took a substantial hit. However, we recognize that every Hoosier student deserves a world-class education, so when feasible, we made restoring that funding a priority. In fact, this year, we increased K-12 education funding by $390 million, thus exceeding pre-recession levels. We also set aside $300 million in the Tuition Reserve Fund to help protect K-12 funding in the event of a future recession.
Due to the fiscal restraint that the General Assembly was able to exhibit, it allowed us to do another important thing: cut Hoosier taxes. When possible, we want to put more money in the hands of our taxpayers because I believe taxpayers deserve more say over how their money is spent. These tax cuts included a 5 percent cut to the individual income tax, an immediate repeal of the death tax and a phase-down of the financial institutions tax.
On a personal note, I also want to share a highlight from my year. In 2012, I authored a resolution which named a bridge over I-69 after Lieutenant Colonel Don C. Faith, a Korean War veteran from Washington, Ind. This past April, I was invited to his long overdue funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. Although he died in battle, his remains had not been found for almost 60 years. It was such an honor to be a part of laying him to rest and paying tribute to one of our hometown heroes.
Next week, I will be looking ahead at some of our top priorities for the coming session. I hope that you will find all of this very informative because I truly value the role that my constituents play in the legislative process. More times than not, it is the people of our community that inspire the legislation that makes our district and our state the great place that it is. I encourage you to stay involved, and I will continue to do my best to keep you informed of the happenings in Indianapolis!