Fervently working towards progress and recovery
It has been a busy and productive week at the Statehouse. The Democrats returned Monday afternoon, so we have been working hard on House Bills that had been stalled for weeks during the walkout. Working late into the nights during the first half of the week, we were able to do a good bit of catching up as we successfully voted on all of the House Bills that were left on our calendar.
The biggest piece of legislation we voted on this week was House Bill 1001, which is the state's budget for the next two years. After several hours of hearing amendments and debating on the contents of the bill, we were ultimately able to pass the budget in the House, so it now goes over to the Senate for further consideration. Because this is such an important bill to all Hoosiers, I wanted to spend this week giving you an overview of the proposed budget.
The main premise of the proposed budget is to do what Hoosiers across the state have had to do, and that is to live within our means. As I promised in November, the House budget that I voted on would balance the budget - and not raise taxes.
K-12 funding is not being cut. We have flat lined spending on K-12 education and the proposed budget will change the way the funds are distributed to schools. For example, it eliminates extra grants for small schools and restoration grants in an effort to ensure that school funding actually reflects enrollment. The budget aims to move each school district toward its target amount of per-student funding in a time when most districts are above those target amounts at the expense of other school districts. As I have said in one of my previous columns, sending more money to a school does not necessarily mean the school will perform better; rather, we need to encourage schools spending their money wisely and efficiently.
Most agencies around the state are receiving 15 percent less the next two years than they did in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, which is unfortunate, yet sadly necessary step to take to keep the state in stable financial shape. Without these cuts, the state would go deeply into debt and could stagnate (if not reverse) the recovery of our state economy. These are truly tough times, and tough times call for some very tough cuts.
However, the budget is set to be financially stable by the end of FY 2013, meaning that the state will not spend any more than it takes in. When that happens, the state will be able to afford more funding for programs as the state's reserve slowly increases. Not raising taxes means that our already struggling families around the state will not have any further burdens put on them and will allow them to stretch their money further. Our state economy is slowly recovering, and our unemployment rate has been dropping. I believe that this proposed budget promotes this trend and puts us on a great track toward recovery.
On a side note, a couple of bills that I have co-authored are currently waiting on the governor's desk for him to sign into law. One allows the state to inspect, audit, and certify commercial feed manufacturers that export their feed, and the other, HB 1405, makes the sales of dissolvable tobacco products subject to the same laws as conventional tobacco products.
The second bill addresses an issue with a relatively new product that looks like a breath mint but is actually tobacco that dissolves in your mouth. Currently, it is sold to anyone that wishes to purchase it, including minors. HB 1405 updates current laws to treat these dissolvable tobacco products like any other tobacco product and takes them out of the reach of our children.
That's all for this week's column. Thank you for reading, and please continue to send me feedback as we work on Senate Bills over the next few weeks.
Rep. Ron Bacon (R-Chandler)