[r75] BLT: A balanced budget with gains for all Hoosiers (5/13/2011)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Start Date: 5/13/2011 All Day
End Date: 5/13/2011

Every two years the General Assembly is required under the constitution to create a two year budget. This year we worked to craft a budget for fiscal years 2012-2013 that would not increase taxes and would be structurally balanced at the end of those two years. I'm very pleased to say that we accomplished our goals and were able to create a budget that will create a lot of gain for all Hoosiers.

Our top priority was to not raise taxes as many states in the nation have had to do during this economic recession, or to cut funding for education that makes up almost half of the budget. Indiana's revenues have in fact increased over the past months and we were able to restore some funding for many programs. Indiana is in a prime position to lead the nation out of this recession. We were also able to increase funding to education more than we originally thought we'd be able to at the beginning of session.

The governor, the Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and the Senate President Pro Temp David Long, announced that they were going to direct $150 million back into education funding due to higher projected revenues than expected. We were also able to fund full day kindergarten across the entire state with more than $47 million over 2012-2013. Full day kindergarten for all Hoosier children has been a goal we have been working towards and were very excited to see our plans progress with these increased revenues.

The next budget makes several changes to the current K-12 education funding formula. The new formula ensures taxpayer money follows the child.  In the past a de-ghoster program masked the shrinking school corporations of our rural communities.  Under the de-ghoster process in the current funding formula, schools with a declining student population are allowed to count students who transferred to another school district within the last several years. This resulted in school corporations receiving up to 50 percent more per child.  This General Assembly passed a new formula that will eliminate these artificial supports over the next seven years. 

The new spending formula we have proposed would simplify the current school funding formula by eliminating variables such as the de-ghoster, restoration grants, and small school grants that allowed some school districts to receive more than their fair share of funding at the expense of every other school district in the state.

An example is that schools in Gary receive an average of $9,600 per student, despite dramatically declining enrollment, and Warrick County Schools are only receiving $5,900 per student while their enrollment numbers are increasing.

Instead of continuing to fund districts that are losing and educating fewer students, the money needs to follow those students to their new districts. This process will allow every school in the state to receive adequate and fair funding for the actual amount of students they have enrolled and are educating.

We were also able to direct 50 percent of our state reserves balances that are equal to more than 10 percent of what was appropriated to an automatic taxpayer refund, and the other 50 percent to the Pension Stabilization Fund Employment and Pay Issues. This will be a great new program that the governor supports that will put more of our money back into our pockets.

The state budget takes many hours of hard work to create and touch decisions had to be made. I believe we created a fiscally responsible and structurally sound budget that will help many Hoosiers and allows us to live within our means. I am very pleased with the results.

I appreciate your feedback and comments throughout this past session. I will continue to keep you updated and hope that you will contact me throughout the year. You can reach me by e-mail at H75@in.gov or by phone at 1-800-382-9841. Enjoy the warm weather!