Nearing the end of the "First Half"
We passed the Marriage Amendment out of the House this week. It is the first step towards a constitutional amendment defining a marriage as "between one man and one woman". This is an amendment that a strong majority of District 74 constituents have requested. If this amendment passes the Senate, it would need to pass again in 2013 or 2014 and then it would be placed on the ballot for Hoosiers to vote on it. This is an important decision for our citizens to make deliberately.
We got a first glimpse of the House's proposed budget from the Ways and Means Committee this week. The current tax revenue forecast has allowed us to project a 1 percent overall increase in spending. That may be a small amount, but a huge improvement over the past two recessionary years. Indiana is slowly returning to economic prosperity. The budget includes no tax increases and it will be structurally balanced by 2013. It maintains funding for K-12 education. In addition it restores the 3 percent across the board reduction to the Commission for Higher Education's operating recommendations as proposed in the Governor's budget.
The only budget increases are going to be for Medicaid as more individuals qualify and the Federal healthcare program mandates begin to take effect, and also for the Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association to help those with serious medical issues, and finally for pension obligations. There will be one more forecast update in early April before this budget is finalized and passed. And, in one small victory, we do have funding restored for the Lincoln Amphitheatre. There is plenty that remains difficult. However, we should hope that the April forecast continues to show improvement allow us to more fully fund critical services of our state.
The Education Committee passed a version of the School Scholarship Program which allows students of families at the "Free and Reduced Lunch" level income to receive 90 percent of their child's state "tuition" up to $4,500 to attend a private school, measured by the same performance levels as public schools, must perform at the new "A, B, or C" level. It also allows for 50 percent of tuition to follow the student of a family earning up to 200 percent of the Free and Reduced lunch income level. Tuition savings would be reinvested into our public schools. I am hearing strong views on both sides. This bill will be heard on the floor of the House for further amendments next week and is assured to be one of the most significant debates we will have this year.
Also, HB 1210, a significant piece of Pro-Life legislation of which I am a co-author, passed out of committee and will be heard on the House floor. This and companion legislation ensures Indiana protects the sanctity of human life.
In the upcoming week we enter the final week of House bills being heard. There is a frenetic pace to get bills passed out of their respective committees to the floor of the House for second and third reading. In addition, we will begin the redistricting discussions as district-level census data has been released.
Thanks for your continued communications, feedback and support. I hope you and your family have a terrific week!
Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)