As we midpoint of session draws near, we are working hard to discuss, debate and pass bills that move our community and state forward. Although many bills are still making their way through the process, the most important piece of legislation we must pass this session is House Bill (HB) 1001, Indiana’s biennial budget.
This week, Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown announced his amendment to the budget bill, which I fully support, that reflects the priorities outlined by the House Republicans in October. As a member of this committee, I am pleased this our proposed budget protects Hoosier taxpayers, increases funding for education, enhances public safety and maintains the stable fiscal environment necessary to grow the Hoosier economy.
Our budget, based on fiscal integrity, maintains our healthy reserves and strong structural surplus while ensuring that we live within our means. The budget is structurally balanced and does not rely on tax increases or budgetary gimmicks. The spending levels are sustainable for the future and it accounts for fiscal impacts of certain priority legislation such as HB 1005 which would provide a $200 tax credit for teachers who purchase classroom supplies. Having a balanced budget protects our AAA credit-rating and will provide a cushion in case our revenue falls short or another economic downturn occurs.
Most importantly, our proposed budget includes the largest investment to education in our state’s history. In fact, K-12 and higher education accounts for 64 percent of the total budget. The total increase for school funding over the next two years is $469 million, which is equal to a 4.7 percent increase in funding. Additionally, the foundation amount, which is the guaranteed minimum that each school receives per pupil, will increase for every Hoosier student, and the amount devoted for special education grants has also gone up.
Performance funding is included in our budget as well. This allows teachers to receive bonuses for being either effective or highly effective in the classroom. Performance based grants account for $60 million over the biennium.
Another crucial part of education is innovation. The purposed budget increases funding by $1.5 million over the biennium for the continued deployment of an innovative social service and counseling program that allows schools to focus more on their primary mission: teaching children.
Higher education is allotted funding for their operating expenses, dual credit programs, capital projects and financial aid. The budget would fully fund the 21st Century Scholars program at the projected expenditure levels for both fiscal years.
Although education makes up most of our budget, it also funds our strategic priorities like public safety. Our budget would double the funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment from $2.5 million per year to $5 million per year. It would provide new state funding for sexual assault victims’ assistance of $1 million per year and dedicates $13.5 million over the biennium for the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant program aimed at reducing infant mortality rate.
While the budget has a long way to go before the governor signs it into law, we are off to a great start, and I am proud of the progress we have made. It has been a privilege to help craft HB 1001 this year, and I am pleased that there is something in our budget that will benefit every Hoosier in the state.