[r63] COLUMN: House Republicans announce budget proposal

Posted by: Zach Weismiller  | Friday, February 20, 2015

House Republicans announce budget proposal

As I near the halfway point of my first legislative session, I am as excited as when I first stepped through the doors of the Statehouse. Many bills continue to work their way through the legislative process and onto the House floor, including my bill addressing a local concern with levees that passed on third reading last week. I am proud of all that we have accomplished thus far and look forward to continue supporting legislation that has a positive impact on our community and state.

House Bill (HB) 1001, our state’s biennial budget, is the most important bill we will pass this session. Rep. Tim Brown, Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, recently unveiled his amendment to HB 1001 which reflects the House Republicans’ budget priorities for the next two years. It also represents the hard work of Hoosiers who presented their budget proposals or testified on behalf of House bills. As the only freshman member on Ways and Means, I was honored to listen to their testimony and am appreciative of the work our committee has done to craft an honestly balanced budget that continues to protect Hoosier taxpayers, invest in education and focus on public safety issues.

Many of the priorities addressed in our budget could not be accomplished without continued commitment to our state’s fiscal integrity. The proposed budget is structurally balanced and protects Indiana’s current AAA credit rating. We are one of 11 states that has maintained a AAA credit rating from all three credit rating agencies. This allows schools, local governments and state entities to borrow money for less, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest payments. The budget continues to live within our means and maintains healthy reserves, allowing us to invest in the future of our children by adequately funding our schools and making sure Hoosiers in need of assistance receive necessary services.

As a result of managing our finances responsibly, House Republicans have made it a top priority this session to address public safety issues in our state. Our budget doubles funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment programs to $5 million a year. It would also appropriate nearly $7 million per year to the Protecting Indiana’s Newborns (Safety PIN) grant program to incentivize the creation of innovative plans to reduce Indiana’s alarming infant mortality rate.

Most importantly, the budget proposed by House Republicans makes the largest investment in our state’s history by increasing K-12 education funding by $469 million. This accounts for more than half of the entire budget and nearly a 5 percent increase from the previous biennium. Also, the student foundation, the base amount that each school receives for every student, will increase by 8.7 percent in 2016 and 3 percent in 2017.

Along with prioritizing school funding, we are committed to supporting our hard-working Hoosier teachers by allocating $60 million over the biennium to school corporations to reward high performing educators. Those dollars would go directly toward performance bonuses, so teachers, who go above-and-beyond to prepare our children for future success, are compensated for their hard work and dedication. In addition, we are also proposing a $200 tax credit for teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms.

There is still a long road ahead before HB 1001 is signed by the governor, but I am pleased our budget continues to build upon our state’s strong fiscal foundation. If you would like more information about the amendment to HB 1001, I encourage you to visit www.indianahouserepublicans.com or contact my office at 317-234-9447.

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Rep. Braun (R-Jasper) represents portions of Daviess, Dubois, Pike and Martin Counties. He serves on the Roads and Transportation Committee and Ways and Means Committee.