Senate Democrats try and fail to push their agenda on budget votes

By Shelby Mullis
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — Senate Democrats tried to use the budget Wednesday to force votes on some of the issues they championed this legislative session.

They failed.

Sen. Karen Tallian speaks on an amendment for the state’s budget. Photo by Zoie Richey, TheStatehouseFile.com

The Senate version of the two-year budget totals $32.1 billion, leaving $1.8 billion in reserves. The plan slashes the House’s proposed $1 cigarette tax hike, provides the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program with an additional $3 million annually — $7 million less than what both the House and the governor proposed — and removes the House’s provision to shift 100 percent of the sales tax on gasoline purchases to fund roads.

Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, proposed an amendment to raise the pre-K pilot program appropriations from $3 million to $24 million, while Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, echoed Gov. Eric Holcomb and sought an additional $10 million annually.

“I think the governor is right on this. I’m impressed with the governor and his start so far,” Lanane said when describing the $20 million biennial push for pre-K. “I think this is an excellent middle ground, you might say.”

Both amendments were defeated by Senate Republicans with only the nine Democrats supporting them.

Several Senate Democrats offered other changes to the budget Wednesday, but a majority failed. They called on their Republican counterparts to consider raising the minimum wage to match the percentage increase of the gasoline tax, place a moratorium on corporate tax cuts and create a nonpartisan commission to draw legislative district lines, preventing gerrymandering.

Only three amendments passed the Senate floor Wednesday, including one from Sen. Eddie Melton, D-Merrillville. The amendment would allow the Gary Community School Corporation to request a waiver from the Department of Education for requirements to list a school building on the unused school building list while it’s designated as a “distressed political subdivision.”

Sen. Luke Kenley speaks on an amendment for the budget. Photo by Zoie Richey, TheStatehouseFile.com

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, urged Republicans to vote in support of the amendment, calling it an effort to get Gary ready to “get their financial turnaround accomplished.”

Both parties joined forces to pass the amendment by a voice vote.

Lawmakers will vote on the Senate version of the budget Thursday. Leaders from both the House and the Senate will meet later this month to reconcile their differences and produce a final product.

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

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