[r79] Adjournment nears, General Assembly hard at work (4/26/2011)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Start Date: 4/26/2011 All Day
End Date: 4/26/2011
We are in the home stretch as I am hopeful that one of the most historic legislative sessions in Indiana history will conclude on time this Friday - preventing a special session. The frantic pace of the Legislature has been accelerated ever since the Democrats' five-week hiatus, but despite our differences, we have been tirelessly working together to complete a full list of legislation remaining to be concurred on by both the House and Senate. Early in the session, we set our priorities to include passing pro-growth legislation to create jobs, expanding education opportunities and balancing the budget without imposing tax increases.

As Indiana continues to dust itself off from the recession, the Hoosier way has been dignified with unparalleled resiliency. While our more populated states, New York and California, continue to run amok and add to their insurmountable deficits, Indiana remains a beacon of hope for fiscal responsibility and discipline in this country. Our ability to live within our means has become a model for national implementation.

Indiana has some of the most pro-business and taxpayer-friendly legislation on the books. It is from these policies that our private sector has grown at twice the pace of our nation and unemployment rates continue to fall. The fiscal outlook for Indiana is increasingly optimistic as Hoosiers reinvest in the economy and spur growth.

In addition to getting Hoosiers back to work, the General Assembly has concentrated on the future of our state by enhancing our K-12 education system with additional educational options. Due to an improving bottom line, earlier this month we were able to announce an additional $150 million investment in K-12 education emphasizing early learning opportunities for Hoosier students. The revenue forecast for the next two fiscal years predicted higher than anticipated state revenue levels, so the Legislature is seeking to allocate more funding towards education. The increased revenues, in addition to the prudent reserve balances, prove that the disciplined financial efforts by Republicans in the General Assembly and the governor are paying off for Indiana.
The long-term outlook for our state's fiscal reserves have Indiana better positioned today, but the impact of the recession was crippling. The previous budget made some difficult cuts in order to live within the state's means without raising taxes. K-12 education funding makes-up over 50 percent of the state's budget, and a portion of that funding was cut in 2009 due to fiscal revenues being severely low. However, because of the tough decisions we have made, the General Assembly can carefully begin to increase funding for education.

The past few months have painted an optimistic future for Indiana, but the General Assembly still has some work to do. Over the remaining week, the Legislature will hash out their differences in conference committees so a compromised version of the bills can emerge.

This process is preceded by the House and Senate passing legislation with one of the chambers adding amendments to the language of the original bill. The author of the legislation can then concur or dissent on the amendments made by the other House. If the legislator dissents, the bill goes to a conference committee where the senators and representatives involved work to reach an agreement on the specific language. The agreed upon bill will then go back to both chambers for a vote. If an agreement is reached and passes both Houses, the bill moves to the governor to be signed. If an agreement is not made, the legislation dies for the session.

I look forward to finishing the session and completing the people's work.

Keeping things in Lehman's terms,

State Representative Matt Lehman
District 79