By Ashley Shuler
INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb gave his final approval of the state’s $32.3 billion two-year budget and road funding plans Thursday.
“Both these bills are going to transform our state from where we gather today, from this very moment in the people’s house, to where we want to be five, 10, 20 years from now,” Holcomb said at the signing.
Gov. Eric Holcomb signs Indiana’s two-year budget and first ever 20 year road funding plan.
Photo by Nicole Hernandez, TheStatehouseFile.com
The budget, which Holcomb said he took “great pride” in signing, passed both House 68-30 and the Senate 42-8 late last week after lawmakers settled their differences over major issues like taxes and education funding.
Under the law, the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program is getting $22 million annually in funding with $1 million going to a virtual, in-home pre-K program. Currently the program gets $10 million a year.
That means Holcomb and House Republicans got more than the additional $10 million they wanted for the program, while Senate Republicans compromised from their $3 million proposal. The money outlined in the budget is still less than pre-K advocates previously requested, who wanted $40 million a year.
The pilot will be expanded from its current five counties — Allen, Lake, Jackson, Marion and Vanderburgh — to an additional 15 counties that have yet to be selected.
“I’m thrilled our lawmakers are providing thousands of low-income Hoosier families access to high quality early education,” Holcomb said in a statement following the pre-K bill’s passage. “This important legislation gives more children in more counties the chance to start their educational journey on the right foot.”
The 20-year road funding portion of the signed budget includes a $1.2 billion plan that would give nearly $870 million in new annual funding for state roads and bridges.
Under the law, Hoosiers would pay an additional 10 cents per gallon of gas. The tax would be phased in annually over the course of seven years beginning in July.
Hoosiers can expect to see construction and smell asphalt come July because of this investment in the Indiana’s roads and bridges in state history.
Holcomb said this investment in roads is bigger than the Major Moves initiative former governor Mitch Daniels launched in 2005. That plan poured money into improving and expanding Indiana’s highway infrastructure over 10 years.
“My colleagues are more importantly, those that we work with, have gotten a little tired of a mantra that I’ve had over the last four years to fund roads, not for the next election, but for the next generation,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “We have done just that.”
Other issues packed in the budget include economic projects such as bringing more direct flights to Indiana, giving a pay increase to law enforcement officers, and granting anonymity to pharmaceutical companies and distributors that supply lethal drugs for executions.
Ashley Shuler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.