Last week, House Speaker Brian Bosma announced the caucus’ agenda for the 2015 legislative session. The agenda is our plan to increase accountability for all Hoosiers while strengthening Indiana in four major categories: Budget, Education, Ethics and Public Safety. At first glance, these may seem like dissimilar issues, but we have found that they are all essential for the stability and advancement of our state.
During odd-numbered years, the Legislature is tasked with drafting a budget that outlines how money will be allocated over the next two fiscal years. By managing our finances responsibly and living within our means, Indiana continues to be in great fiscal shape. Our unemployment rate is below the national average, we are ranked first in the Midwest as the best place to do business and we are one of 11 states that have a triple-A credit rating from all credit rating agencies.
This year, we plan to build on our accomplishments by once again passing an honestly balanced budget that does not increase taxes. We will also seek to maintain our healthy reserves and a strong structural surplus. As a grandfather, I feel very strongly about not placing unsustainable financial burden on our children.
In addition to continuing our efforts at government reduction and increasing efficiency, we also plan to invest in strategic priorities, like education. Currently, almost two-thirds of our state budget is devoted to K-12 and higher education, and we would like to increase that funding next session. While many of the exact numbers will still depend on the December revenue forecast, we will look for ways to accomplish this, once more, making education one of our top priorities.
To further strengthen our education system and those who make it function, it is our goal next session to develop a tax credit for public school teachers who dip into their own family budget to purchase school supplies for their classrooms. These teachers work tirelessly each and every day to support our students, and for that, they deserve our support as well.
Despite the positive economic statistics that I mentioned at the beginning, public safety continues to be an issue impacting the state. It is no secret that Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation, but did you know that we are also tied for the 3rd highest police deaths in the nation? This session, we will work to address these issues by providing more support to new and expectant mothers as well as providing local government the tools and resources necessary to combat their public safety problems.
In addition, we plan to focus additional resources towards a cause that is near and dear to my heart: helping victims of domestic violence. This year, I participated in a charity event for the Albion Fellows Bacon Center, a non-profit shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, located in Evansville. As one of the “100 Men Who Cook,” I specialized in bacon wrapped green beans, and incredibly, we were able to raise $109,000 for this worthy cause.
I am also looking forward to partnering with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence for our annual charity initiative at the Statehouse. Every year, the House Republicans select an organization that is fighting for a worthy cause, and I am pleased this year we will assist in their efforts to help and provide support to victims of domestic violence.
As you can see, we have some big goals for next session, and I hope by highlighting our priorities, you are optimistic about the future of our state. As your representative, I understand that the decisions I make directly impact the people of District 75. In each of these decisions, I will continue to do what is best for both our community and the well-being of our state.