Every January, as snow covers the state, legislators return to the Statehouse, each bringing with them their own personal goals for session. As a member of the Public Health Committee and a respiratory therapist, my goals often center on improving the healthcare industry in Indiana.
However, each year, the House Republicans also establish a collective set of goals, known as our agenda. This year, our agenda included budget integrity, education funding, public safety and ethics reform, and I am pleased to report that we delivered on each of these priorities.
Every two years, the General Assembly is charged with crafting a budget to run the state for the next two fiscal years. The 2015 budget is honestly balanced and does not increase taxes on the hardworking Hoosiers we represent. It also protects future generations by maintaining healthy reserves and a structural surplus, both of which are critical to maintaining our state’s triple-A credit rating.
While holding firm to our commitment to fiscal integrity, we were also able to make the largest increase in K-12 funding in Indiana history. In fact, K-12 funding received an additional $474 million over the previous budget. As a result of this investment, I am happy to share with you that each and every school district in our community will receive an increase in per student funding over the biennium.
Another strategic priority which we strengthened our investment in is public safety. Indiana is facing several public safety concerns, including a high infant mortality rate and overcrowded domestic violence shelters, which is something we sought to address this session. Working towards this goal, we established the Safety P.I.N. (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant program. This initiative will provide $13.5 million in grants for groups with innovative ideas on how to reduce infant mortality in Indiana. In addition, this year’s budget doubles funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment.
The General Assembly also passed ethics reform legislation that builds on our already rigorous transparency initiatives. Unlike some other states, Indiana has a part-time Legislature, which means that we are only in Indianapolis part-time, and the rest of our time is spent in our local communities. This provides us a better understanding of the needs of our district. By improving reporting requirements and disclosures of conflicts of interest, legislators will be better prepared to navigate the nuances of a part-time Legislature.
With another successful session in the books, I am thankful for the opportunity to be back in the district full-time. After nearly five months in Indianapolis, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family, particularly my grandkids, and also working outside in my greenhouse. At the same time, I will continue to do all that I can to be a resource for our community.
Throughout session, hearing your thoughts and concerns helped me to make the best decisions for our district. Even though session has adjourned, I encourage you to continue to contact me anytime. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.