Governor signs $34.6 billion budget into law

By Erica Irish
TheStatehouseFile.com

 INDIANAPOLIS — Standing with legislative leaders under the Indiana Statehouse Rotunda, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed the state’s next two-year budget into law Monday, an act that cemented a balanced budget for the eighth consecutive year.

“Our state strategy to grow continues to define how we structure ourselves,” Holcomb said about the finalized budget, a central component to much of the legislation crafted in the recently-concluded session. “We are nimble and we cannot just act, we can react to the lay of the land and, in fact, get things done.”

The $34.6 billion budget sought to address one of the state’s largest challenges by increasing K-12 funding, with the hope that those funds bump up teacher pay. A main selling point for lawmakers has been the new $763 million added for K-12 education, which already constitutes about half the state’s spending priorities. It includes a plan initially introduced by Holcomb to use $150 million to pay down pension liabilities, freeing that money for other needs including salaries.

Gov. Holcomb signing the 2019 state budget surrounded by leaders of the General Assembly
Photo by Andrew Longstreth TheStateHouseFile.com

It also places more than $2 billion into the state’s reserves.

The budget was almost exclusively crafted by Republican lawmakers, with many provisions offered by the Democratic caucus ignored, voted down or removed at the last minute during the legislative session.

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, expressed their enthusiasm for the early end to the legislative session, which concluded five days ahead of schedule on Wednesday, April 24.

“We hope finishing five days early makes up for one day last year,” Bosma joked, referring to 2018 when lawmakers were forced to hold a one-day special session to resolve unfinished issues including Sunday alcohol sales and emergency funding for school safety improvements.

“There are usually about 20 issues that are irresolvable without any input, and that just didn’t happen this year,” he said.

At a news conference after the signing, Holcomb outlined other legislative items that fell into his “Next Level 2019Agenda” which covers improvements to the state’s economy, infrastructure, education and career development, public health and government.

Gov. Holcomb recapping goals that were met during the 2019 legislative session.
Photo by Andrew Longstreth TheStateHouseFile.com

Among the legislative actions approved by Holcomb are 100-percent exemptions from state income taxes for veteran pensions, broadband internet expansion in rural areas and additional direct domestic and international flights from Indianapolis to bolster economic development.

Holcomb has also signed numerous other bills, including a firearm measure that he signed April 26 before a cheering crowd at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention. The measure, outlined in House Bill 1284, would provide civil immunity to citizens who kill or injure another person in self-defense. 

But Holcomb said several bills that arrived at his desk gave him pause, including the massive gambling and casino bill and a proposal involving carbon capture and storage at certain manufacturing facilities.

 “I want to make sure I read every word of those particular bills,” Holcomb said. “They’re big, major, good economic development bills, but I want to make sure I read them for myself.” 

Asked if he planned on vetoing any legislation, Holcomb said he had no plans to do so at this time but is still reviewing bills. He has seven days to sign after the legislation reaches his desk. If he chooses to not sign a bill, it will become law by default.

Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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