[r82] House Ways and Means Chairman sends budget bill to the floor (2/21/2011)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Start Date: 2/21/2011 All Day
End Date: 2/21/2011
STATEHOUSE-Chairman Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale) and the Ways and Means Committee took a monumental step today as they passed the proposed $27.9 billion, two-year budget plan out of committee.  House Bill 1001 will be scheduled for a full consideration in the House as early as Monday afternoon.

"We have been diligent in the budget-writing process to present a balanced budget that will not include tax increases on our already struggling Hoosier families," said Chairman Espich, "while also keeping in mind Indiana's revenue shortfall.

"We have crafted it in a way that will leave us with a structural balance by 2013, while also maintaining sufficient reserves and protecting K-12 education. But most importantly, we are not raising taxes. By not doing so, we are creating a climate that is taxpayer-friendly and provides incentives for more businesses to bring jobs into Indiana."

Chairman Espich first unveiled his two-year spending plan and school-funding formula Thursday morning, which included many of the recommendations provided by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"We embraced the principal of a 'spending freeze' budget because Hoosiers are making do with less, and I think government should follow suit."

In the current budget proposal, appropriations for most state agencies are 15 percent below their appropriations in Fiscal Year (FY) 2011; the main exceptions being Medicaid, Indiana Comprehensive Health Insurance Association and pensions.

K-12 funding remains the top priority. Both K-12 education and higher education make over half of the total state budget. It would preserve current statewide tuition support funding for K-12 schools for both 2012 and 2013. In addition, it funds most Department of Education's grant programs that are related to student instruction, including full day kindergarten and textbook reimbursements.

The budget proposal would eliminate extra grants for small schools, restoration grants and would pay schools for students who are actually enrolled.

"We have pushed for years to even out the disparities between schools that get too much per-pupil funding and the schools that get too low of an amount," said Chairman Espich. "The money needs to follow the student-we shouldn't be funding a ghost child-and reflect enrollment."

The proposed funding formula aims to move each school district toward its target amount of per-pupil funding. Most districts are currently above their target amounts.

"The budget could very well change, for example, when it receives a hearing in the Senate, and especially when we receive another revenue forecast in April. That report will be very telling to us."

Although the budget was proposed this week, Chairman Espich and his committee members have been working diligently on the budget-writing process for several months.