Party-line committee vote sends $30 billion budget to full House
Wednesday, 20 February 2013 17:21
INDIANAPOLIS – A two-year state budget plan crafted by Republicans passed the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday but with some concerns about education and Medicaid.
The committee voted 16-7 along party lines to send the $30 billion plan to the full House, where a vote will take place next week.
Democrats are expected to offer their own plan then. And they’ll try to force the GOP to vote on Gov. Mike Pence’s proposed cut in the income tax, which didn’t make it into the Republican plan.
Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis – the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee – talks with Rep. Terry Goodin, D-Crothersville, on during a debate Tuesday about the $30 billion, two-year state budget plan. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com
Gail Zeharalis, a lobbyist for the Indiana State Teachers Association, said she appreciates a Republican budget proposal that boosts funding for schools. But she said it’s not enough to make up for recent, leaner years. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, TheStatehouseFile.com
On Tuesday, though, much of the testimony focused on spending.
Gail Zeheralis, a lobbyist for the Indiana State Teacher’s Association, said the union is pleased with a K-12 funding increase of $344 million over two years. That would boost total education funding by 2 percent in 2014 and another 1 percent in 2015.
But Zeheralis said the increase doesn’t compensate for years during an economic downturn when there was no funding increase at all. In 2010, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels cut education spending by about $300 million, money that was never made up. Education advocates have said that’s forced local districts to make painful cuts.
“We’re just trying to spread these dollars too thin,” Zeheralis said.
The GOP budget plan also spends more on higher education, roads and Medicaid. It fully funds a significant increase in projected Medicaid usage in 2014. But in 2015, the plan requires the Family and Social Services Administration to implement a managed care program for its aged, blind and disabled and long-term care clients.
Managed care is already used for other Medicaid recipients and Republicans have said it would save the state $20 million in 2015.
But John Cardwell, chairman of the Indiana Home Care Task Force, said the state’s plan to have that program created by July 1, 2014 is too fast. He said other states have spent far longer in the planning stages for similar managed care programs.
“I’ve talked to people in Texas and Arizona and they’re like, ‘Whoa, slow down,’” Cardwell said.
The Ways and Means Committee made only a handful of changes to the budget on Tuesday. They include:
Removing the funding for the Principal’s Leadership Academy, a professional development model for public school leaders
Allotting $1 million for the Clean Water Indiana program.
Increasing the general fund appropriation to the Heritage Trust, a state program that buys land from willing sellers and aims to protect Indiana’s heritage of wildlife habitat and recreation
Writer Tim Grimes is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.