Spring has sprung and has brought along all of the sunshine and storms alike, just like this year’s legislative session. Similar to Indiana’s ever-changing weather, the environment here at the Statehouse is constantly changing. The past three and a half months have flown by and with each week came a new debate or another bill that works to improve the lives of Hoosiers all around the state. Some bills have already passed both chambers and a few have been signed by the governor. One piece of legislation that will most directly affect all Hoosiers is the budget.
The House passed our version of the budget earlier this session and the Senate recently presented their proposal. We will work together in the coming weeks to pass a budget that benefits all Hoosiers. It is important to discuss and debate this bill extensively in order to craft an honestly balanced budget that maintains healthy reserves with no tax increases. Without a budget, we would be forced to live off of our state’s reserves, or savings account, which would only sustain Indiana for a little over a month. The state’s two year budget must protect Hoosier taxpayers, increase education funding, increase public safety and maintain the stable fiscal environment necessary to grow the Hoosier economy. Our budget proposal makes the largest appropriation to education in our state’s history. Over 50 percent of our state’s budget will be spent on K-12 education.
There are many priorities in the House proposed budget this session that are working towards increasing the well-being of Hoosiers. The Safety PIN (Protecting Indiana’s Newborns) grant program has been made a top priority for House Republicans. Did you know Indiana ranks fifth highest in the nation for infant mortality? In 2012, there were 556 infant deaths. We are working to create a grant program to incentivize individuals to develop innovative plans to reduce Indiana's infant mortality rate. This is an issue which is a devastating reality that effects far too many Hoosier families and we are working towards combating it. I look forward to all the initiatives that the Safety PIN program funds in an effort to educate and provide resources for new and expecting mothers.
Along with infant mortality, unfortunately, domestic violence is also something that is effecting Hoosiers across the state. According to the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, nearly 1,800 domestic violence victims were denied shelter because programs were over capacity over the course of a year. Also included in the House proposed budget is to double domestic violence funding from $2.5 million to $5 million. These additional resources will help care for those dealing with domestic violence situations.
Additionally, this session I have co-authored House Bill 1159 which provides a voluntary veterans' preference policy for hiring, promoting or retaining a veteran in private employment. Essentially, this bill will help to reduce veteran unemployment figures in Indiana and help veterans to find work. It is important to me to that we continue to help our Hoosier military members, and I have no doubts that the Legislature will ensure that active members and veterans are well taken care of.
Despite the storms and seemingly endless deliberations of this session, the coming weeks will ultimately illustrate the hard work and success of the Legislature. I look forward to seeing all that we can accomplish for the betterment of all Hoosiers.