By Shelby Mullis
INDIANAPOLIS — The state’s $32.3 billion two-year budget will head to the governor’s desk for final approval next week after lawmakers resolved several sharp disagreements over taxes and education funding.
The budget passed both the House and Senate Friday, 68-30 and 42-8 respectively.
“I’m very satisfied that we’ve completed a historic session with the single largest investment in our state’s roads and bridges in our state’s history,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “This is really a monumental and bipartisan effort to make this happen.”
The largest issues surrounding the budget earlier this session included education funding, tax increases and tax shifts.
Under the plan, the state’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program will receive $22 million annually in funding with $1 million going to a virtual, in-home pre-K program. The program currently receives $10 million a year.
In January, Gov. Eric Holcomb and House Republicans sought an additional $10 million for the program, while Senate Republicans asked for just $3 million. Meanwhile, pre-K advocates previously requested an extra $40 million in funding.
The pilot program will also expand from the five counties it is currently in — Allen, Lake, Jackson, Marion and Vanderburgh — to an additional 15 counties that have yet to be selected.
Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis called the pre-K move “a very, very modest step in the direction we need to go.”
K-12 education will see an average increase of 1.6 percent in the first year and 1.7 percent the second year or a total of $345 million in new money.
Teacher appreciation grants are being re-established under the budget with $30 million each year. These grants will be awarded to all effective and highly effective licenses teachers across the state.
The budget also removed the proposed $1 cigarette tax hike, previously included by House Republicans as a means to fill a gap in the general fund. The gap would have been left by an immediate shift of all sales tax on gasoline to the State Highway Fund. Lawmakers instead decided to gradually shift the sales tax over the span of seven years starting July 1.
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, called the upcoming biennial budget “big, bold and better for all of our Hoosier people.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, said a number of items appeared in the budget overnight with no discussion, speaking specifically about a lethal injection drugs measure. The added measure would grant anonymity to pharmaceutical companies and distributors that supply drugs for executions. That would be an incentive to continue building the state’s lethal drug inventory.
“Something, I think, is wrong with the system that allows some — one person — to put these things into the budget without any vetting,” Tallian said.
Regardless, Tallian, who voted against the budget plan, thanked Kenley for the opportunity to collaborate.
Holcomb praised the budget in a statement Friday, and said it funds several key points in his agenda, including increased direct flights out of Indiana airports, funds for workforce development and investments in pre-K, and “high-need industries for working adults.”
“These strategic and targeted investments are designed to make our state stand out as the best place to live, work and build a business,” Holcomb said. “I commend Indiana lawmakers for their vision, and I recognize the resolve it took to advance these programs amidst many other priorities.”
Correction: This story has been updated from its original version to indicate Rep. Ed DeLaney is a Democrat. TheStatehouseFile.com regrets the error.
Shelby Mullis is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.